In the book publishing world, every story is as unique as the author crafting the words on the pages. As an outsider looking in, you might wonder whether it’s in the cards for you to share your story with the world. After all, going from idea to published book isn’t a literary walk in the park — whether you plan to self-publish or work with a publisher.
However, Elona Washington is here to tell you that becoming an author can be a real possibility if you set your mind to it. As the founder of The Author’s Journey, a book marketing agency, Washington helps amplify the income and impact of nonfiction authors. “I do what I can to make sure that your books are sold and your brand platform is elevated,” she says.
This article is a recap of key takeaways on all things book publishing, turning challenges into opportunities, and believing in the power of your personal story. Let’s get into the details.
What’s It Like to Write a Book?
You might wonder whether you can write and share a book with the world without pursuing Washington’s services or those like them. The significant difference between those who go it alone and those who work with Washington is the support you get — because you can’t do it all alone.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is when you write a book, you create another business,” says Washington. Even if you’re an existing entrepreneur aiming to write a book to build your business, that book isn’t going to sell itself.
That book becomes your business.
So, when most people come to Washington, they’re overwhelmed with the prospect of marketing their books. It isn’t just a matter of putting your book on Amazon and having people flock to buy it; you need to put in the work behind the scenes to ensure sales.
A marketer since 1999, Washington recently opted out of “the toxicity of corporate work” to pursue entrepreneurial freedom — preferring to set her own schedule and not answer to other people. She’s since built two businesses, The Author’s Journey and C7 Marketing, a marketing company.
Before taking the entrepreneurial leap, Washington worked for Harper Collins, where she delved into the worlds of both traditional and self-publishing.
That experience reaffirmed her belief that authors need marketing. “No one is going to do it for you,” she says. “No one is going to hold your hand.” In other words, you’ll have to figure it out yourself or hire someone.
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Elona offers some tips and best practices if you’re new to publishing and looking for ways to market your book. First and foremost, toot your own horn. Now is not the time to be humble. “You need to start bragging about yourself, and you need to promote your book like it was released yesterday,” says Washington.
When people first release their book, they’re excited to tell the world about it on social media and anywhere with an audience. However, over time, their efforts start to wane. Eventually, people will forget about the book unless you continue promoting it.
Even if it’s two years later, the book is still brand new to many people in your audience. You can also promote a rerelease, where you design a new cover and add or subtract some of the content in your book. Then, you can have a rerelease signing or a rerelease talk to breathe new life into your existing work.
Whether you go the traditional or self-publishing route, you must still be engaged with your book’s marketing. Washington has worked on campaigns with New York Times and USA Today best-selling authors, and they were still out there hustling their books.
Granted, they had a team of designers, editors, marketers, and PR specialists, plus beautiful landing pages to boot. Yet they worked like they didn’t have any support.
If you have a burning desire to publish a book through traditional means, Washington says go for it — but keep in mind that your success story doesn’t hinge on the traditional route. She notes that women tend to succeed most in self-publishing, with 67% of self-published women having top-rated books — versus 38% of women at traditional publishing houses.
Meanwhile, men tend to experience greater success in traditional publishing, where systemic bias may tilt the scales in men’s favor.
Raised by Ivy League Republican Muslims, Washington led a sheltered life in an upper-middle-class family. So when she graduated from college and became an exotic dancer, her family didn’t know what to make of the situation. “But I felt more at home in the strip club than I did at church, in my mom’s house, on campus, anywhere, because I was so accustomed to feeling that way,” she says. “And that was because of the abuse that I suffered as a child.”
Having repressed painful memories, Washington eventually started remembering things she had blocked out as a child. She suffered from PTSD and chronic depression that turned into suicidal depression, and ultimately, her condition began affecting all aspects of her life, from her work performance to her relationship with her son.
Washington, unwilling to live with painful memories any longer, nearly ended her own life. A call with her psychiatrist saved her — and that was the turning point when she decided to leave her job at HarperCollins and work for herself. “I became an entrepreneur in the middle of my suicidal depression,” she recalls.
Along the way — still in the throes of suicidal depression — she joined a mastermind.
Months later, she had an episode that nearly led her back down a suicidal path. “And I feel like it saved my life,” she says. “Because I knew I had to do something different. I couldn’t keep working, getting frustrated, quitting, and starting another job. Like I knew entrepreneurial life was for me.”
Washington offers this advice if you’re considering entrepreneurship: Your ducks will never be in a row. Even if they are, there’s no guarantee you won’t hit stumbling blocks along the way. However, if it’s something you believe in passionately, nothing can stop you from becoming successful.
“That’s actually why I’m focusing on book marketing,” says Washington, “because other people’s stories throughout my life have saved my life.”
Stay inspired on your entrepreneurial journey at RamonRay.com.
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