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E11: Writing a Book - The Learning Curve (51-55)

Book data, design & the surreal book signings!

· writing a book

Three different topics in this edition...

1) The data: How do you know how book sales are going, given that sales are happening in multiple channels in multiple formats?

2) The impact of having a book: Regardless of sales, having a book is a crown...and depending on the look of the book, the crown gets larger and brighter.

3) Doing a book signing: Just imagine people lining up for your autograph. Weirdest, most surreal thing I've experienced so far. Highly recommended, though!

Lessons 51 - 55:

51) Amazon Author Central and NPD Bookscan:

Once your book is up on Amazon “pre-sale”, you are now listed as an author on Amazon. Head over to and set up your author page. I have no idea if anyone ever looks at the author page itself, but the site is important as the book launches. Every Friday morning, you can click on “Sales Info”, then “NPD Book Scan”, and it will show you your book sales for the week prior. NPD combines book sales data from all sellers who report. This is a great resource if you’re just looking for a number of books sold. There is also a tab for “Sales Rank”, “Author Rank” and a link to geographical sales information that gets updated often as well. I still check it every Friday morning.

52) The data sucks...horribly:

As a sales leader, I love data. I want to know where the books are in stores, what sales are by format, what demographics are buying the book, etc. The data available to authors is nothing short of awful. Amazon does allow you to see book sales by geography (specifically, by US city), but that’s all. I can’t even see my book sales by format, so if someone asks me, “How many audiobooks have you sold so far?”, my answer is “I have no idea.” It drives me nuts.

53) Doors open from writing a book:

This one may sound obvious, but I can confirm it -

If you’re on the fence about writing a book, I’ve now come to the conclusion that there is very little downside.

It’s a lot of effort, takes a lot of time, and can be a large expense / opportunity cost. However, I cannot believe how much more credibility I have in everything I do, every conversation I have, and anyone who reaches out, simply because I wrote a book.

54) The look of the book matters, so don't skimp on book design:

I went into my local library, who was not carrying the book, and talked to the individual who manages the non-fiction floor. I told her I had written a book, much of which came from research done in the library itself, and wanted to know whether the library does any sorts of co-marketing or engagements with authors.

The woman answered with little emotion, explaining that they sometimes do, but it matters what the subject of the book is, blah, blah, blah.

I then handed her mine.

She looked at it, and her demeanor immediately changed. She went on to Amazon and looked it up - and saw that there were a bunch of reviews.

“Wait, that’s your book? This is, like, a real book!”

I gifted the book to the library, and she immediately walked me over to the woman’s office who runs the entire library. I’m now on display and in publications issued by the library. If my book looked rinky-dink, that wouldn’t have happened. Many other examples of the look of the book making a difference - but the lesson is, don’t skimp on the book design.

55) Book signings are the most surreal thing you’ll experience:

Right after the book came out, I spoke at an event, and they had a book signing afterwards. I sat down, not expecting much. All of a sudden, there was a line of 100 people, some wanting to take their picture with me. I couldn’t believe that anyone would want my signature on anything. I signed probably 250 books that night. For me, it was the unexpected sixth time I burst into tears.

Next up - learnings 56 - 60, where we'll discuss getting and keeping momentum post book-launch. You'll need to keep writing, keep staying out in front of your audience, and building the audience. Then, #60 will show you that you'll have issues - I guarantee it, given that even the top sellers of all time have issues. I'll explain.

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