Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Every New Author’s Greatest Enemy (and How to Beat It)

A year ago, when I noticed that some of the same people who were buying Michael Hyatt’s book Platform were also buying my eBook, I saw an opportunity.

Since Mike was making a mad dash for the best sellers list, I decided to piggyback on his success, dropping the price of my already-affordable eBook a couple of bucks to put it in the impulse buy range.

Why did I do this? Because I was trying to overcome the greatest enemy every new author faces…

Anonymous Photo

Photo credit: zigazou76 (Creative Commons)

Anonymity. That’s the real enemy here. Not brick-and-mortar stores or other authors or even the “eBook revolution.”

Irrelevance — that’s what kills you before you begin. And if you’re trying to get your words noticed, you face the same antagonist. Here’s why…

We don’t read authors we don’t know

Of course, there are exceptions to this.

We might take a chance on a random book we’ve never heard about, but not very often. And usually we mitigate these risks by getting them at the library or in the bargain bin.

More often than not, we humans naturally avoid taking chances with our wallets. We read books from names we recognize. And this is why we keep reading those authors.

So what does the undiscovered author who has a message the world needs to hear do? She finds a way to get her name out there. And the best way to do that? Be generous.

If you’re stingy with the world, it will be stingy right back at you.

Fortunately, the reverse is also true.

We don’t buy books we haven’t heard about

Let’s be clear: Authors don’t sell books; they spread ideas.

Don’t believe me? Look at the following bestsellers from the past decade or so:

  • Harry Potter: A boy finds out he was born to wizard parents and destroyed the most powerful dark lord when he was a baby.
  • StrengthsFinder 2.0: Instead of trying to improve your weakness, each person should focus on what they do best.
  • Blue Like Jazz: Jazz doesn’t resolve; neither does God.
  • The Hunger Games: In the future, kids are forced to kill each other for TV entertainment.

Those are just a few, but each offers a unique and interesting idea. Sure, the writing is good, but beyond that, the idea behind the book is remarkable.

You get a book to sell by first getting an idea to spread. [Tweet that]

Try as you might to spam your way to the top. There’s one way to win when it comes to sharing a message the world needs to hear, and that is by serving other people.

We want what other people have

If you could give away a thousand copies of your book to sell 10,000, would you do it? What about 10,000 to sell 100,000?

Most authors would say yes, but few are willing to take the chance, to be that generous. And that, my friend, is where you fail.

Once an idea tips, it goes from nobody caring about it to everybody talking about it. You have to work and earn your way into this realm, but once you get there, it doesn’t matter how much you charge for your book.

$5, $15, $25 — who cares? People want it, because other people have it.

But until you get there, readers will nickel and dime you to save a few pennies. Instead of arguing and haggling, why not take all the energy and spend it on getting your idea to spread?

This is a lot more fun than the alternative

By no means have I mastered this. I’m learning this stuff as I share it.

However, I can honestly tell you that building a platform through generosity is a lot more fun than building one through stinginess.

If you have something people need to hear about — a story, an idea, a whatever — why not quit trying to sell it and start trying to spread it?

When giving is its own reward, what do you have to lose?

If you’re a published author needing help getting your book to spread OR you’re unpublished but have a message the world needs to hear, check out Tribe Writers.

The next class begins tomorrow. Sign up for the waiting list so you don’t miss a thing!

What’s the greatest obstacle you’re facing right now? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Funny how you didn’t mention the Twilight saga. LOL.

  • MaryBiz

    Each time I click on one of the highlights above, “tweet that,” “waiting list,” “tribe writers” it leads me to a blank page.

    • Hi Mary, what browser are you using? The links are working for me, and I haven’t heard any other complaints.

  • My biggest obstacle is still my own voice doubting me. I’ll hear someone tell me something positive and then I spend time inside my head refuting it.

    • Yeah, that’s no good. Gotta stop doing that, Anne. But I’m right there with you.

  • Carol Anne Olsen Malone

    It’s hard starting the journey as a first time writer with all the opposing forces out there telling your different tales of woe. Where do you turn for positive reinforcement, to not remain anonymous. It’s hard to see your hard fought for words going out for free. How do you remain calm and participate in give-a-ways?

    • Carol, I recommend focusing on a few people who already like what you have to say. Share your work with them, get feedback, and let that affirmation fuel your next step forward. Most of us got into this game because we wanted our words to connect with people, not because we wanted to make a million dollars. So find those people who are waiting to connect with your work. It’s not as hard as it sounds.

      Practically, here are a few sites that help you do giveaways:

      BookBub — https://www.bookbub.com/home/
      Story Cartel — https://storycartel.com
      Author Marketing Club — https://authormarketingclub.com

  • Kirbie Earley

    This was great! Thanks so much for continuing to share your learning with those of us who are trailing behind! My greatest challenge right now is T-I-M-E. I don’t know how to eliminate things from my plate and still be who I want to be to my family.

  • Brandy Hunt

    That was awesome! I am greatly encouraged. I think my biggest obstacle is deciding what book to publish first because I have soooo many ideas!

  • Jeff, Read this post at the perfect time. Thanks for this reminder to be generous. How quickly and easily we forget. Patience and generosity will always reap the most dividends.

  • Allison

    Heh, glad I’ve already got this concept.
    Me, I hate it when things are too expensive for me to afford to get the idea. Because honestly, people are buying the ideas. Exactly.
    I made a vow to myself to make all my books free, because I don’t want people paying for my writing. Maybe donations, but nothing for the books.
    Yes, I’m going e-publishing. ^^
    My first book is going to be on a google doc and on a published thing. One for people to comment on if they want to, the other purely just for reading.
    I’m glad I’ve already got this down, and glad to know more ways of spreading out. 🙂

    • Get your tribe readership up first. And guest post like mad.

  • Horton Trask

    I am writing on several projects, but my editor has gone pro on me, and I can’t afford her now.

    • I hope you can get a new one, Horton. 🙂

  • I love this, maybe it looks like sharing other people’s great content via SM more than my own. Today I went to Barnes and Noble and saw two good friend’s new releases on the shelves and for once, I was heart poppingly thrilled for them and not in the slightest sorry for myself.

    I do struggle from “little sister” syndrome as an author, always and forever feeling like I’m chasing the big kids on the playground. Desperately wanted to sign up for Tribe Writers but we just moved 1,000 miles and money is tighter than … well something very tight. Perhaps next time.

  • Awesome Jeff! “When you are who God made you to be, you compete with no one.” ~Rick Warren
    Write like the devil for the joy that drives you on. 🙂

  • Totally agree with your assessment. I think people have the opportunity to bring more than one benefit and one with consequences. We should always alert to identify problems

  • You hit it on the head. So many authors (and musicians) are worried about piracy, but the biggest issue is people don’t know you have something to pirate! 🙂

    To combat this, even though people knew of me, I’ve been giving away my latest book FREE. I am almost a year in on that and getting ready to evaluate the results. On one hand, it gets your stuff out, but on the other, lots of people (I’d argue most) don’t value something they get free. And although your stuff may get in more hands, if people don’t value/use it, what’s the point? Sometimes the nicest thing you can do for a reader is to charge money.

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