By Albert Griesmayr
Most authors will tell you that they write for themselves and not for other people. But the truth is, authors write for recognition; and for that to happen, your book should be a product-market fit. The success of a book is really a matter of whether readers will love it or not!
More than 2 million books get published on a worldwide scale per year while an average book gets sold and read no more than 250 times (Source: EbookFriendly, 2017). The competition is undoubtedly high and selling a satisfactory amount of books is becoming exceedingly difficult for debut authors. This results in disillusionment, lack of motivation, wasted time and resources.
With that in mind, it’s only natural to question your strategy and even wonder about your target audience; Is it even there? Is anyone aware of your book and, if so, what would compel them to purchase it? Why would anyone even read it?
The best way to tap into this “hidden knowledge” is by publishing your book and testing it the lean way.
What is the Lean Way of Publishing a Book?
Its core idea of lean publishing is to publish books that readers like, love, and want. And you do that by quickly and cost-effectively finding out what works and what doesn’t, all based on your target readers’ feedback.
Lean publishing = Publishing a book-in-progress and improving it with feedback received.
This process may seem a little “upside down” and, admittedly, it is. Rather than expecting success without familiarization with your target readers, lean publishing tackles the market first, then offers the final product according to reader preferences and desires. This method is also known to:
- increase book launch success rate
- improve product-market fit
- save the publisher/author time on writing, editing, and publishing
- connect the author with their readers before the book is even published
- garner feedback, constantly
- systematically measure success
- drastically reduce failure rate
- increase book sales
- improve both reader and publisher satisfaction
Even some of the most prolific authors have adopted lean principles (Paulo Coelho, Eric Ries, Guy Kawasaki and James Patterson to name but a few). Luckily, adopting this publishing method is now easier than ever before thanks to social media and blogs.
But how exactly can one publish a book according to the lean method?
How to Publish the Lean Way
To start publishing your book the lean way, I recommend first following the method’s main principles:
- The book is the star. Having a great book idea is the foundation for book success. Start with an idea that readers love and you as the author enjoy writing about.
- Focus on the “big five”, namely: the title, cover, teaser, blurb and marketing strategy. These are the main components that lead to the success of any kind of book.
- Engage with readers. This is the heart of lean publishing, as your readers are key to ensuring book improvement, sales, and positive reviews. Start interacting with them from day one to validate your book idea and continue engaging with them as a means of your book’s improvement.
- Measure success. How will you know if your succeeding if you don’t know the numbers? Measure and analyze constantly and learn from your mistakes.
- Build an audience early. Having an audience is the most important strength of the modern author. Interacting with your target readers and building a relationship with them can lead to establishing a dedicated fan-base that will stick with you long-term.
- Reduce waste. Waste is an important factor to consider in lean methodology. Reduce waste as much as possible in order to sharpen your saw and focus on what is truly important.
- KISS = Keep It Stupid and Simple. In other words, say goodbye to distractions, messaging, and scrolling through social media feeds. Keep it simple, one task at a time, and do less to achieve more.
- Act top down. Get the big things right and focus on them. Leave the minor and petty tasks last.
- Acquire necessary knowledge. It takes decades to master any field, so make so to locate expert advice early. Pay for it if you have to, as it will pay off in the long run.
- Failure = Learning. As with any new venture, mistakes will happen and you will fall. But when you do, just dust yourself and get back up. Learning is an essential part of lean book publishing.
What’s fascinating about lean publishing, besides the core method itself, is the freedom to choose the tools and strategies you prefer to connect with your readers. Here are several strategies you can replicate if you choose to lean-publish:
- Write a blog post summarizing your book or a chapter and gauge the responses.
- Post a short story on your personal Facebook profile and see how many likes you get. You can also record a video talking about your book and see how many views and shares you get.
- Post a short story on your author website or send it to your subscribers via newsletter.
- Tweet different title ideas on your Twitter throughout the day.
- Write a mini eBook and post it on your website for free.
You might be wondering when to start adopting the lean book publishing method. Start from day one. Engage your readers at the very start to validate your book idea and improve your book constantly. The sooner you get something out there, the earlier you’ll start getting feedback that will help you stay motivated while writing your book.
Publishing books the lean way is undoubtedly a lucrative, cost-effective, even motivating way to publish your books. To sell books, always consider what your readers will enjoy reading. Remember that having an audience and engaging them is your most important strength as an author. Test the waters and make adjustments if needed with the help of feedbacks received constantly from readers and followers. By adopting the lean publishing approach, you’ll improve your product-market fit, save months if not years of work and money, and publish with an already-established fan base that’s hungry for your book. And that is certainly worth it!
Albert Griesmayr, MBA, is founder & CEO of Scribando | Novelify. As a book marketing consultant for more than 100 publishers and authors, he has worked on projects resulting in more than 2 million copies combined sold worldwide. He is also the creator of the book publishing initiatives Lean Book Publishing and Who Wrote It.