Everybody wants to write a book. The trouble is, everybody thinks that writing one is the end of the story. But writing a book is a lot like having a child. It’s created in moments of rapture, but once it’s introduced to the world you realize how much work you have ahead of you.
Sherrie Wilkolaski, the publisher at Pressque Publishing and the founder and president of Author’s Boutique in North Carolina, says the number one problem she faces in getting through to clients with big dreams of being authors is that they either resist or do not realize a fundamental truth — if you are an author today, you are in business, as much as someone who owns a bakery or runs an accounting firm.
Wilkolaski will try to convey that message and show potential authors what it takes to be competitive in the writing world at the “Winter Writers’ Retreat: Write, Publish & Market Your Book Now,” on Saturday and Sunday, February 23 and 24, at the Lambertville House in Lambertville.
The retreat will feature workshops on Saturday and one-on-one coaching sessions on Sunday and will cover such topics as “What You Need to Know about Publishing Today,” “Optimizing Book Sales on Amazon,” and “How a Winning Seminar Can Sell Your Book.” Speakers and coaches include Karen Hodges Miller, president of Open Door Publications and a frequent U.S. 1 contributor; former journalist Sonja Hegman of Hegman Editorial, who will discuss marketing and social media; Kevin Kita, a chiropractor who has leveraged his practice and philosophy into the book “Healing Journeys: Stories of Mind, Body & Spirit”; speaking and presentation coach Eileen Sinett; and Lisa Linder Snyder, a website designer from S.H.E. Web Designs, who will discuss how to create a simple one-page website for your book.
The cost of the retreat is $200 for the full Saturday, and Sunday’s one-on-one coaching is $75 for a 50 minute session. Enrollment in the retreat affords a 15 percent discount on hotel costs for the Lambertville House. Visit www.opendoorpublications.com/writers-retreat.
Wilkolaski will head the discussion on writing as a business. A Buffalo-area native and the daughter of a father who worked in the General Electric plant and a mother who worked for the New York State Parks System, Wilkolaski earned her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from SUNY-Buffalo in 1992. Rather than reporting, she worked in advertising and marketing at several television stations. The path quickly led her to North Carolina (because she hates the cold), where she ventured into marketing at an advertising agency.
Her career brought her into contact with a woman who did wedding books that were more like checklists of things brides need for their big days. Checklist or not, the books were insanely successful, and when the women in charge of that company moved to California, Wilkolaski took things over.
She was more than happy to sell the books, but “they were all the frilly stuff,” she says. Nothing practical in the way of planning and organizing. So Wilkolaski put together a program on the nitty-gritty of wedding planning that was so anticipated, one woman came into her business once a week for eight weeks ready to write a check for $795.
On the eighth week, the woman wrote the check and Wilkolaski realized she had a great idea brewing. She wrote a book on wedding planning that she self-published through Lulu.com (where she eventually was director of publishing services) that became one of the site’s top sellers.
These days Wilkolaski runs Pressque Publications, an independent digital and print publisher that specializes in creating E-books for established authors, and helps emerging authors navigate the increasingly competitive waters.
The writer as business. These days, anyone wanting to be considered a working author had better be prepared to work as if their career is a small business. Because that’s exactly what it is, Wilkolaski says. And like all businesses, writing is about marketing.
“I did a survey recently to gauge writers’ expectations,” she says. “Every writer I interviewed expected to be on the New York Times bestsellers list.” That’s fine, she says, but the problem she most often runs into is that so many authors don’t think they need to market. “Absolutely, I can help market, but if the writer isn’t participating it doesn’t work.”
It’s all about expectations and planning, Wilkolaski says. Understand that in your first year, you’re name-building. Also understand that you need to look at your life — as a writer and as everything else — and know how much time you can devote to marketing and promotion. If it’s a few hours a week, that’s fine. It might take you longer to get to the New York Times than someone who can market for a few hours a day, but the keys are perseverance and hard work. A steady plan, even if it’s slow, is better by far than a slapdash approach to marketing.
The expectations also direct how writers define success. “You have to know what’s driving you,” Wilkolaski says. “What are your long-term goals? Some people want a million dollars. Fine — how many books do you need to sell to make that? You need to do the math.”
Get it right in writing. It might sound obvious, but the best way to make residual income from your books is to do them right the first time. In the age of digital publishing and E-books, anything you publish will be there unless you take it down. Hence, eight years from now, your book from today will still be available.
But if you have a lousy product now, readers are less likely to believe your new product, even if it’s terrific, will be any good. “I still make royalties on all my old books,” Wilkolaski says. “You have to do it right the first time.” And every time.
Giving it away. One of the other things aspiring writers tend to balk at is the concept of giving away their work. After all the blood, sweat, tears, and coffee it takes to get a good book out to the world, the thinking goes, why would anyone want to give it away. That’s how writers make their living, right?
Yes and no, says Wilkolaski. Yes, you want to sell your books, but the way to increase sales is to “give as many copies away as possible. People read books on the recommendations of others. Particularly friends. It’s about getting endorsements.” The more buzz you create with promotional and free copies to friends, the press, and fellow writers, the more new people will come across your name and check out your books.”
Competition and media. Wilkolaski says that part of the marketing machine you run for your books must include newspapers, radio stations, podcasts, and blogs by reviewers.
“Writers need to be ready to talk to media people.” Interviews with established news outlets in particular are essential to getting on bestseller lists. “There is a direct correlation between book ales and media coverage,” she says.
Most authors she knows want to be on Good Morning America, which, like the New York Times dream is fine, Wilkolaski says. But you have to start local. “There’s always a newspaper or a radio station that needs content,” she says. “Start there.”
Have an online presence. One final, necessary ingredient is blogging. “Blogging is key,” she says. “But trying to convince writers of that is like pulling teeth.”
Writers, ironically enough, hate to blog, mainly because it’s time consuming and because its rewards do not show up immediately. But patience is as much a virtue in writing as it is anywhere else, Wilkolaski says. Over time, and with frequent, regular blogging, writers see their cachet rise. The all-important keywords that help web surfers find you show up more frequently when you write regularly.
Just be patient, she says. Just because the technology is fast in the publish world of today, it doesn’t mean that the way to build your name as an author has sped up with it. Successful authors are built just as they’ve always been — one day at a time.
Editor’s Note: Morgan is a self-published writer who has worked in the past with Karen Miller.