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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