For this week’s show I got to talk to one of the biggest names in hybrid publishing CJ Lyons, who was originally writing a book for the traditional world, but went self published after that deal went through. We talk in depth about how she works in both publishing worlds and what she has learned from each and how that applies to her overall career.
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Seth Godin – Who CJ read to learn about business.
Copyblogger – Another business resource that CJ started reading.
Quantcast – A good service to work out the demographics of her readers, by looking at the demographics of her websites visitors.
No Rules Just Write – CJ’s website for writers.
(As you can see from these mentions, writing a book is not the only step in the self-publishing and traditionally publishing world. A lot of it comes down to business).
CJ users her medical background when writing a book, with real world situations forming significant parts of her novels. She also went to live with an FBI agent and interviewed several more in order to form the basis of her main character in her most popular series, Lucy Guardino. This research paid off as she gets a lot praise from readers for her characters realism.
CJ has been writing for a long time, starting writing a book in high school, then writing more books as she continued through education. She didn’t really intend to become a writer, she was quite happy being a pediatrition. A few friends told her that it was time to get something published because her work was at that level. Before she let anyone else read her work she had already written half a million words.
She eventually entered a writing contest where she became a finalist. This brought her name to the attention of the traditional publishing world and she was offered a contract on writing a book (all based entirely on the first chapter). The publisher was so excited about the first book that they signed her to write a book to follow it up immediately.
The book was very popular initially (before it had a cover) and then when the booksellers saw the cover they refused to put it on the shelves for a new author. The publisher refused to change the cover stating “we have an award winning art department.” They cancelled the book and it never hit the shelves through that publisher. When this happened CJ had already left her job and suddenly it had all come falling down around her. She hired a lawyer and got her rights back.
She still wanted to make it happen as a writer so she wrote another book called “Blind Faith,” which to date has sold a quarter of a million copies and hit the #2 spot in the NYT charts.
The Business Side of Writing a Book
The failure of the publisher on her first book made her realise that she didn’t want to leave all the business stuff in the hands of someone else. She realised that had to do the business side of things as well as actually writing a book. She started viewing her relationships with others in the business (agents/publishers) as partners in her venture.
The Problem with Publishers
“They don’t know how to do direct to consumer marketing.” CJ has found that publishers don’t know who the readers are, they know who the booksellers are. She has previous researched her own demographics to work out who her readers are, this is something that her publisher had no idea about.
CJ says that if you are spending more time marketing than you writing a book then you are probably doing a disservice to your readers by not writing the best book that you can. You can trust your readers and if you are writing a book they love then they will do the marketing for you!
CJ recommends not putting out the first book as soon as it is ready, make sure that you have a second book that is pretty much ready to go. This is so that when readers have finished the first book they’ll immediately have something to move onto. Then, with both of those books published, start writing the third.
CJ has been building her email list for over 10 years. She actively curates this and regularly sends out emails asking people if they still want to be on the list, if they don’t reply, then she can remove them. This means that her email list is filled with people who are actually potential readers, rather than just people with a passing interesting.
Currently CJ has a street team that she manages through an email list. She is about to move this to a community so that the team can interact with each other. This team started when she put a note in the back of one of her books asking for people who might be interested in an inside track.
“I wasn’t just a writer selling my books to New York City, I was an entrepreneur.”
“Your best marketing is your next book”
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