Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Serious Authors Put Customers First.

Think like an author: I make a point of trying to turn writers into authors. You can be both, of course, but there is a difference. Writers do the introverted, creative work. Authors do the extroverted, outreach work. If writers are comfortable in an ivory tower, authors are comfortable on the street. 

If forced to make a choice, I prefer my own customers to be authors. Two reasons. First, if an author can't write, I can help. If I writer can't reach out to readers, I can do nothing. Second, the author who can't write will always be more successful than the writer who can't think like an author. (One of my favorite projects was a book by a man who couldn't write. He couldn't spell, punctuate, or produce a grammatical sentence. On the other hand, he knew who his customers were and what he wanted from a book. And he had hilarious stories. Despite his lack of writing talent, his manuscript was an easy edit. The result: he has sold several thousand copies of his book.)

So, think like an author. And act like one. This means the following:
  • First, you start a book project with specific customers in mind. For most books, your customer will be your reader. In some cases, notably regarding a children's book, your customer will be your reader (a child of a certain age and description) and your buyer (parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, teacher, therapist, etc.). Doesn't matter. In  both cases, to borrow an idea from the late business and nonprofit consultant Peter Drucker, your aim is to change your customer's life. 
  • Second, you start interacting with your intended customers immediately. For those who already have identified customers, perhaps because they have been working in a particular business or ministry for some time, this will not be a problem. For those starting from scratch, it might be news. However, it should be common sense. If your aim is to change someone's life, why would you even think of waiting. Your work is your work. Your purpose is your purpose. Neither depend on having a book in hand. On the other hand, when you do get a book in hand, your ability to sell a copy depends on you doing things consistent with your work and your purpose. Why wait? 
  • Third, you spend the bulk of your time and energy on understanding and meeting your customer's needsfor information, inspiration, and entertainmentthan on polishing your work. As above, you can hire someone to dot the i's and cross the t's. It's harder to find someone with your passion and conviction who can carry your message to your customers. If they could do that well, they'd write their own books.  
Putting customers first does not mean you pander to them. This is not about giving them what they already have, know, or can do for themselves. It's about giving them your vision, your ideas, and your energy in a way that will change their lives for the better. It's about understanding that your book is not about you but about your relationship with your reader. If it's only about you, no one will buy it. The Publishing Pro

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