It’s Book Expo America week here in New York.
It’s the biggest book event in the US and I love every square inch of it. Walking into the hall is a great reminder that you aren’t alone on this publishing path.
The bad news is we realize not only are we not alone, but there are thousands of books each day vying for the same attention.
Seven years ago I wrote this piece, which appeared in Publisher’s Weekly and Huffington Post to name a few. At that time, we were just starting to feel the effects of indie-publishing as books of all kinds began surging into the marketplace. A lot has changed since then but a lot of things are still the same. Authors are still pushing for attention, but now the noise level has increased exponentially. For that reason, I thought it might be a good idea to resurrect this piece, updated of course to remind us that despite what the media might lead us to believe, Nobody is Born Famous.
Are you ready for the ultimate truth? Well, here it is: nobody is born famous. Unless you’re the offspring of one of the Kardashians, not likely that you arrived in this world with a star on the Walk of Fame. In fact, it’s just about a total certainty. This shouldn’t surprise you! Yet, I see so many people acting as though they are already a member of the elite author club? So if you are not one of the approximately 3% of authors who actually makes a living on their writing alone, this article is for you! In fact, I think you’ll find that most of us make more money doing consulting, speaking or whatever else and the writing, i.e. our book, is our business card.
Why is this number so low? Perhaps it’s due to the fact that publishing is a deceptively tough industry. And many authors simply don’t realize how hard it is to become successful. Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do was write the book and the rest … just happened? I once said in a presentation that publishing isn’t the Field of Dreams, just because you wrote it doesn’t mean people will beat a path to your door. You have to tell them about your book. And then you have to tell them again. And guess what? Then you get to tell them some more.
And it doesn’t end there!
You have to love your book so much that even when no doors are opening for you, you still knock. Or maybe, you find a window. You’ll find yourself working tirelessly. You’ll accept every opportunity that appears and making the most out of each interview, even those at 3 am, because someone is listening. In fact, this was a key strategy for the creators of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. And it doesn’t end there. You say “thank you” for even the smallest opportunity because the savvy author knows that small opportunities leads to bigger ones. Today’s “nobody” could be tomorrow’s Jimmy Fallon or Leslie Jones.
I was asked to write this piece. You’ll find that I love writing about tips and resources for authors, but I tend to focus on how to improve your book marketing. It’s only rarely that I discuss what needs to be done in order to succeed, mostly because I think that a lot continues to be written on being persistent. And on taking your success into your own hands.
An author once told me, “I listen to you because you walk the walk, you’re an author yourself and you do what you tell us to do: grab every chance you can to get your name out there.”
It’s true, but it stuck with me. Because even though I have the email addresses to producers of the Today Show and Ellen ( and maybe even a cell phone number or two, ooooh), the truth is, I’m right here in the trenches with you. And we all find ourselves hunting the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and you have to keep following it around every corner, every day. So I know your struggles, even as I share with you the road to success. Success is a journey, not a final destination. So despite the fact that many people tell me I have achieved success, I find myself constantly on the hunt for how to improve.
In fact, I still love and appreciate every opportunity I get. Sometimes I’ll even get emails from people who say, “I’m sure my blog is too small for you to consider appearing on, but I thought I’d ask you anyway.” You know what? Nothing is too small. Not now, and not ever. And for such a humble pitch, I’ll clear my schedule.
We work with a variety of sites on author promotion and we get book and interview requests for our authors as a result. And what I’m about to tell you will shock you. The other day I was scrolling through a list of authors who received requests for interviews and copies of their books, but who never turned in the requested information or didn’t send the book. In fact, out of ten on the list, only one had responded appropriately. The others blew it off, said they weren’t interested or just forgot. In ten years, guess which of the authors will still be writing? Yep, the one who busted their tail feathers to get the requested content out the door. They’ll probably be successful too, having continued to pound the pavement for more opportunities. As for the others, they’ll be back at their jobs wondering why the world never read their book, and why they aren’t famous.
I love publishing and I’d never want to be anywhere else. For all of its challenges and obstacles there’s nothing it. But being a successful author requires a dedication that most people will never understand, as well as a daily dose of humility. Never believe any hype about yourself, whether it’s a bio they read before you get on stage, or a series of stunning reviews. (That said, every time you get a killer review, it’s totally ok to jump up and down, call your mother, dance around your office and show all your friends.) Bottom line: never, ever assume that just because you wrote a book you deserve fame. No one deserves fame, it’s earned and for many of us, always elusive.
At a recent conference presentation, before the event started, I heard a voice call out: “It’s really you!!” A man approached me with my book in hand. “I’ve been following your work for years, you are such an inspiration,” he said breathlessly. I looked around to see who he was talking to, Angelina Jolie? Was Tina Fey here? Sure enough, he meant me. I was floored. He went on to thank me for my work, my website, my blog, and our monthly newsletter. Finally, he took a breath and asked me if I would sign a copy of my book (I still find this incredibly thrilling, by the way). I told him how much I appreciated what he said, he seemed surprised. I just smiled and said: “Thank you, because you remind me why I do this, each and every day.”
Always be amazed and appreciative of every chance that comes your way. Take advantage of every opportunity and thank the person giving it to you. After all, you weren’t born famous, and the industry doesn’t owe you anything but a book. You got that. Now what will you do?