Category Archives: Traditional Trade Publishing

For the Love of Making Money on Your Books, Read This One!

This content first appeared on the Innovative Editing blog and has been republished here with permission.

Every month, Innovative Editing features a creative writer or non-fiction writer who caught its editorial eye. These authors can be self-published or traditionally published, Innovative Editing clients or outside recommendations.

Just, one way or the other, they do stand out! If you think you do too, then reach out right here.

This month, I have an author whose featured work is relevant for so many writers. How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers is incredibly useful in unearthing industry secrets about writing, publishing and marketing that can put your book in the spotlight.

I would recommend this guide to any creative writer or non-fiction writer who’s even considering the self-publishing route… even if it’s just as a step toward being traditionally published.

January’s Author of the Month: Kim Staflund
Featured Title: How to Build a Loyal Readership So Your Self-Published Books Get Picked Up by Literary Agents and Trade Publishers
Genre: Business Non-Fiction

Age Appropriate: All

Jeannette: Kim, I’m just going to come right out and say how informative your book was. It definitely taught me a thing or two about marketing, and you have a lot of great tips and tricks to tell about writing as well. What inspired this book idea, and what is its main purpose?

Kim: I consider myself a “sales coach for authors” more than a book publisher because my greatest goal is to help authors sell more books. I’m constantly researching and utilizing the latest book sales and marketing tactics that will give authors the greatest edge.

In 2017, I found two articles that profiled two different fiction authors and how they had earned six- and seven-figure incomes selling their books online. Then I personally spoke to two other fiction authors using the same tactics to sell literally thousands of books on a consistent basis.

That had me wondering: If it can work for fiction, can it also work for non-fiction? I asked a couple of “author marketing consultants” what they thought of this, and both were skeptical. In their opinions, it couldn’t work for non-fiction authors because they don’t typically offer multiple book products to the same pool of readers.

Hmmmm… Something inside of me disagreed with their logic. My gut was saying it would be just as easy, if not easier, to do this with non-fiction books. And sure enough, I researched some more and found two non-fiction authors using the same tactics to sell thousands of books online. That made me smile, and it inspired me to begin writing how-to guides tailored specifically to various non-fiction authors.

But, again, the process can also work for fiction authors too.
Jeannette: Okay. Let’s dive right in then! You write that “… the most successful authors are the ones who treat book writing, publishing, sales, and marketing as their own business. They don’t only write; they sell their books.” I don’t want to give away all of your secrets here, but can you expound on that concept a little bit?

Kim: Even before I wrote this book, that was true. I’ve been saying it for years. The most successful authors are entrepreneurs. Always have been. Always will be.

For those who disagree, I highly recommend you read this blog post where the Big Five trade publishers themselves – Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster – discuss how much time they actually spend selling their authors’ books for them. You’ll be enlightened.

Jeannette: You’re spot-on with that blog post. Authors-in-the-making too often have a utopic idea of what being traditionally published looks like. They have no idea they might be working just as hard to market themselves as if they were self-published.

I know you address this directly in the linked article above. But let’s talk about it here too since, in your book, you brought up at least one example of a self-published author who got picked up by a traditional publisher after she marketed herself well enough.

Would you say that’s a publishing world trend at this point, where the big guys want to know writers can pull their own weight before they offer anything on their end?

Kim: This is not only a recent trend. It’s always been this way for the majority of authors/writers. I strongly recommend that people read the above-mentioned blog post so they can have their eyes wide open when approaching trade publishers.

Trade publishers are looking for authors that already have their own platforms, and this book can teach you how to build yours.

Jeannette: That it can! But like I said several questions ago, I don’t want to give away all of your secrets, so let’s switch focus to the book-writing phase you also address in How to Build a Loyal Readership. As a book-writing coach myself, I cheered when you said that a writer’s “sole purpose” in writing out their first draft was to actually get it written.

I’ve had too many students and clients start out absolutely awesome stories, only to fall prey to the editing bug well before they should be editing. And so they never finish their first drafts, much less ever get published.

Click here to sneak a peak inside!

Kim: I’ve talked about this type of procrastination in all my books because it’s such a common issue for authors. There’s so much more to procrastination than simple perfectionism. It goes much deeper than that. It’s about fear.

I dedicated a full chapter to uncovering what I believe causes fear – and how to overcome it – in my recent paperback Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors. Midwest Book Review touted it as “…a critically important instructional reference … informed, informative, and thoroughly ‘user friendly’ from beginning to end … a mandatory study for every novice author seeking to establish themselves in an economically supporting career…”

You can find that whole section in:

They complement what you’ll read in How to Build a Loyal Readership. If you combine the advice between the book and those two blog posts, you’ll be able to overcome your procrastination much more easily.

Jeannette: If it’s okay with you, I’ll out one aspect of that advice right here: rewarding yourself along the writing way. What’s the best incentive you ever set for your writing accomplishments?

Kim: It depends on where I am in life. I’ve rewarded myself with everything from a new pair of shoes to a trip to Europe! I think we should spoil ourselves once in a while. Because writing a book is a true accomplishment.

Jeannette: And such a worthwhile one too! Oh, and speaking of worthwhile…

For the record, I know that’s a horrible transition. But I really want to squeeze this second-to-last question in here. You mention that you prefer Microsoft Word rather than Scrivener. I’m with you there, but you do know “them’s fightin’ words” for a lot of writers, right?

Kim: Lol. Yes, I think you’re right. And that’s why I invite anyone who reads my book to add a review/comment to it afterward on whether they agree or disagree with anything that’s been said. I may have 25 years’ experience in this industry, but I don’t know it all and I’m a lifelong learner. I read the comments because I’m open to other people’s opinions. I think we can all help each other.

Jeannette: That was definitely another aspect I appreciated about How to Build a Loyal Readership. Too many people in the book writing industry – editors included –  are very snobbish about their opinions. But you give so much amazing, insightful and honest advice in your book.

Is there one piece of information you think stands out as being more important than all the others? Or is this one of those systems where each part builds off of the next?

Kim: There are a lot of moving parts to this type of book sales and marketing. All these things work together, and it has to be done on a consistent basis in order to see any real traction. The only one piece of advice I have is what I’ve been telling authors for years: Whether you’re self-published or trade published, authors are entrepreneurs.

Jeannette: Beautifully stated!

Kim: Jeannette, thank you so much for the opportunity to speak to your subscribers. I’m very grateful for it. And thank you for the guest post you did for the PPG Publisher’s Blog, too: Do You Really Have What It Takes to Write a Book?

Jeannette: That was such a fun article to write! So thank you, Kim. I had a blast putting it together.

And Innovative Editing readers, here’s the short list of e-books Kim has written, starting with the oh-so-helpful Author of the Month feature. Oh yeah, and the second two are free!

How to Be Your Own Best Writer You Can Be

James Sale

When Kim Staflund, whose ‘How to Publish a Bestselling Book’ is a mini-masterpiece of useful information on the topic, invites you to do a blog for her pages, then you know you have a problem: what could you possibly write that could add to her readers’ knowledge or skill-set that is not already contained in her volume? There is so much she has done already; so perhaps my first piece of advice would be to go back and read her book! But the initial panic subsides when one realises that one isn’t trying to be Kim Staflund; on the contrary, everyone can become truly helpful to others when we just simply become authentic. What does that mean? It means in the first instance we need to address our own experience, and not try to come up with all the regular solutions that everyone else does. On that basis, then, I’d like to share with you some of my publishing experiences over a 35-year period, and to see whether this of use to you, dear reader.

First, so what are my publishing credentials for speaking at all on this matter? I am pleased to tell you that I have been both self-published, and also published by minor and major publishing houses. All my poetry collections (as opposed to individual poems, which have appeared in many magazines in the UK and the USA) have been self-published (check my The Lyre Speaks True:, as have some management booklets, which have been done for marketing purposes within my core consultancy business ( But alongside these, going back to 1984 when a 3-volume educational series of books were published by Macmillans, I have had over 30 books published by the likes of Nelson, Hodder and Stoughton, Longmans Folens, Stanley Thornes, Pearson, Courseware Publications, Gower and most latterly, Routledge. My book, York Notes: Macbeth (Pearson: ) has been (and still is, though currently when I looked, ranked #2) an ongoing bestseller, and I have written 4 versions of the book over a 20-year span. Currently, following the sales success of my Mapping Motivation book for Gower ( ), I am under contract to Routledge to write 6 more book on aspects of motivation. So it is true to say that, whilst I am not a full-time professional writer, like many readers here perhaps aspire to be, I am a serious writer with a track record to match.

So what can I advise people? How can I help you become a better, more effective writer? I think the first thing I would say, and which is counter-intuitive to what many readers want, and even reasons for reading Kim’s magisterial work, is this: be really clear about why you are writing! This may sound obvious, but in my experience it is not. The trouble is, I think, that people see writing as an easy way to make money, or worse: simply they do it for money. And that – with many honourable exceptions – leads to dire writing; disposable writing; writing that is here today and gone tomorrow, even when it succeeds in its objective of making money.


You see, once you get on the treadmill of I need to make money writing, then the marketing takes over the writing process; the writing for the market becomes more important than discovering yourself; the ‘it’s good enough’ attitude supplants the desire to – in that wonderful Eagles’ phrase – ‘take it to the limit’. What I am saying is, of course, very difficult in today’s world where the market dominates everything. But for me, writing is a special calling, and in two special ways.

The first is that writing is a process of discovery, self-discovery. We may intend to write a book about a particular topic, but true writing always reveals more than we thought we knew. In fact, it could truly be said that we don’t know what we think until we come to write it down. Second, the content and the writing itself are both forms of expertise – and becoming expert in both is what is critical. In this expertise there is a deep joy – one, in the element of words, is like a prime dolphin in the element of water, how wonderful to experience that mastery!

And here – as a seasoned consultant and business person – I can bring in my first true marketing point to help you. Namely, what the great American marketer Jay Abraham called the principle of ‘Pre-eminence’. I don’t write to make money; I write to become pre-eminent in the disciplines that I know and exercise. I want to be in the top 4% of poets, in the top 4% of management and motivation writers; these are my playing fields, and these are my objectives. So to establish this is not about simply how many copies of a book can I sell, and what percentage of the turnover do I keep (typically 100% in self-publication and 10% with major publishers); it is much more about my reputation and the collateral benefits that book writing provides. These collateral benefits are considerable; and have always been there in my life: ranging from giving me the edge in job interviews (in ye olden days before self-employment), attracting invitations to speak as prestigious events, facilitating consultancy assignments and etc. To give an example, only last week I was at Regents University in London at a conference called ‘5 Great Minds’, organised by The Chartered Institute of Marketing; it was a day conference ( ) with – guess what? – 5 speakers, all ‘great minds’ speaking, and I was one of them. Hype aside, that – THAT – is what is so valuable to my business and career, and writing enables it. And to be clear, I am all for making money – it’s just that writing books can lead to it indirectly (as well as directly), which is why clarity of purpose is so important.

Thus, given the above context, what do I recommend you do to develop your own writing business? What things have I done that have helped boost my reputation as a writer?

First, let’s deal with getting a publishing deal with a major publisher. What is my number one piece of advice? You need to go and find a way to meet the editor personally. That’s it. Like you, I have had hundreds of rejections from submitted manuscripts and proposals. But I have found that when I get out and go for it, and meet the relevant person at some event, and I don’t try to ‘sell’, but simply have a great chat and find out their interests and what they are doing, then – THEN – there is every chance the magic sentence can almost casually come out: “You know, I think I have something you might like’.  Boom! And they say, “Send me it – I can’t promise, but –”

Can you do that? Can you get out and meet that someone? And keep in mind, when you meet them, meeting per se is not enough. For the transaction to take place they need to: know you (hence you turn up), like you (are they going to, or are you going to be a pain?), and trust you (do you listen to them carefully, and are you going to follow through and do what you say?). My key books with Macmillan, Pearson, Gower and Routledge all occurred because I went out to meet the key decision maker, enjoyed their company, and as they liked me, so good books were born.

The question you might ask is: well, how do I meet them? Where will they be? The answer to that question is not as opaque as it might seem. In ye olden days of the ‘80s, things were trickier, but now you find on Twitter especially, but also Facebook and Linkedin, editors going on about conferences, book signings, writers events that they are going to attend all the time. They, too, remember, are in the market.

This leads on to my third point: developing expertise. In Kim’s wonderful book she has a great tip on overcoming writer’s block, but actually the tip is much more important than just writer’s block. She says, “The writers who spend even as little as half an hour per day reading another author’s work often find they are more creative …” Yes, and often more expert too. We need to find not only authors who inspire us, but also what I call ‘home-bases’ – people or sites who share your values, who are aligned with what you do (Kim’s website is just such a place for writers generally) at the ‘field’ level. Learning and expertise through this can become so much deeper.


What does this mean? It means that being a writer can be a lonely business and we need deep encouragement from others, and others who can support us on the way. Take my own ‘field’ of poetry for example. This is an extremely fragmented and disputatious field. One could never get published if one kept sending one’s work to ideologically-opposed magazine editors. So I identify ‘home bases’ where people are in sync with me, where I share values, and this is like a watering hole (one brilliant home for me is The Society of Classical Poets: This is a place that values, especially, form and beauty; it doesn’t want poetry that says the world is a hellhole, there’s no hope, no form, and – hey, subtext coming up – aren’t I a clever little monster for observing all this rubbish; where’s my Pulizter?) So the question for you becomes: where are the value-friendly and vision-aligned publications where you can expect – if they know, like and trust you – to find a receptive audience? Go to work and project there!

My fourth point would be the importance of those two twins: reviewing and blogging. In between writing your actual books, and sometimes mining them for articles as ‘sneak peaks’ or ‘tasty teaser’ copy, there is the importance of contributing back. I really cannot emphasise this enough. Indeed, a subsidiary point arises: namely, it is better to engage in 2 or 3 marketing activities that you really understand and enjoy and ‘work’, rather than trying to deploy 25 techniques and tools from a dozen different marketing experts promising outstanding success if you just only do this … No, really getting behind one or two great ideas is where the meat is; or is the 80/20 Rule in action.

Reviewing is so important because you learn from the books you review, you alert others to them, and critically you demonstrate your expertise. Finally, reviewing can also lead to your making invaluable and prestigious contacts. This is so important. I myself through this process have only just this week been contacted by a leading academic at a top-notch New York university about a project. This is someone I could not have accessed, probably, through any other mechanism, but now it’s happening. And remember, when you support others, they are much more likely to support you; and if they don’t, no matter, move on, and be a moving target. So where are you reviewing? And there’s the thing; it’s rather like publication – think of the self-publication where anyone can start, and also think of the more prestigious magazines where one might gain a foothold. So, to use myself as an example, I regularly review on spiritual and healing matters for the Quaker print magazine, Towards Wholeness ( and also have now become an official poetry reviewer for The Society of Classical Poets. On top of this I am an active re-purposer! My management blogs I present first on my Linkedin page ( but then I re-use them on my personal blogging site on Typepad (, so that they can appear fresh a week or a month later; also, I have spent a long time building up credibility on, so that now I am a ‘Diamond’ author for them and get top priority with my posts ( There are so many outlets out there, and here’s the thing; they really are desperate for high quality content because – why? – there is so much low quality content around! This is either because the writer cannot really write, or because they are simply peddling clichés and jargon, the sort of stuff you can find anywhere. But if you are a real writer, if you have followed Kim Staflund’s advice, if you are adopting the strategy of ‘pre-eminence’ as I mentioned earlier, then you are exactly the kind of person that editors are looking for: your writing can be a game changer for so many other people, and in the end quality counts. So to return to my earlier point, it’s counting the quality first, and then the money follows, rather than trying to count the money, never mind the quality.


So what is true of reviews is true of blog and blogging: you demonstrate what you know. And here again is another important principle in action that needs to be fully grasped, embraced even. Namely, the key point of blogging is to give away free and significant information – note, to give away. This means, then, what not to do: not to act like some consultant who has key information regarding a solution to a pressing problem, but only hints that they have the solution, and that you will have to contact them – and pay – to get the full works. People hate this niggardly sort of transaction; and not only that it always reveals, in my view, that the author has a very limited set of ideas, which is why they are so parsimoniously doling them out. When you are a deep-knowledge worker/writer you can give away a 100, a 1000 ideas for free, why? Because you really do have the abundance mentality; you understand that in the world of ideas, everything is limitless – there are 10,000 more and that the human mind the more expert it becomes, the more it realises the more there is to comprehend, and the more driven it is to encompass just such further knowledge. Thus, there will always be more! As the Dalai Lama said: “Generosity gives rise to a creative mind”. You are fueling yourself when you give to others: awesome or what?

These, then, are some core ideas that have emerged for me as I have pursued my writing career and am now a senior in the digital age! But I don’t yearn for the good old days. Yes, they were good, but I think things are even better now precisely because of the ability of writers to determine more of their own destinies; we can produce, we can distribute, we can market, much more easily; and we can keep the rewards of our labours. But that doesn’t mean self-publication is the only choice. As I said at the beginning, be clear about what you want to achieve from your writing. Be open, then, and be flexible; look for opportunities, especially in the form of good contacts. Give to others and commit to the work. There is a deep joy and calling in being a writer, so now seize that moment and get your stuff out there! I hope some of you may let me know how successful you have been following some of these ideas.

MAPPING MOTIVATION  by James Sale for Routledge on Amazon

The Lyre Speaks True by James Sale

James Sale on Linkedin

© James Sale 2017