You may think the starting point of becoming a spiritual author is with the writing of your spiritual book, however, what runs parallel to or following the writing process is what really makes you an author.
A writer writes and an author is a business. The writer is private and the author is public. Therefore, aside from writing your spiritual book, there are lots of other things to think about when you’re getting started as a spiritual author.
This post covers the topics of traditional and non-traditional publishing, branding, and audience. If you’re a first-time spiritual author, it will be especially beneficial.
Your publishing options as a spiritual author
Spiritual authors are created when they choose to put their words and themselves out into the public domain with the intention of selling their creative work.
This may begin at any time during the manuscript writing process or upon its completion.
When you’re ready to become a spiritual author, you will have two main options for publishing your spiritual book: the traditional vs the non-traditional routes.
Starting out, lots of spiritual authors would love for their manuscript to be selected for publication by a reputable publishing house.
Firstly, the acknowledgement feels fabulous as it gives you validation that your writing is good enough.
Secondly, the thought of someone else taking over the intricacies of publishing and distributing your book is a huge relief. It means you don’t have to work it all out for yourself.
But it does come at a loss of your creativity and ownership. If you sign a book deal you lose your book’s copyright – forever.
Ask yourself: In the long run, is this really in my creative best interest?
Unfortunately, the reality of traditional publishing for many authors is far from inspiring. Publishers often don’t meet one’s expectations; rather there may be a sense of frustration.
There will always be exceptions to the hard slog story of trying to get your manuscript noticed by a literary agent or a half-decent publisher.
But it’s rare, and usually means you know someone who knows someone, are a celebrity, have a Ph.D., have achieved a notable literary award, or have a substantial reach to start with.
In fact, only 1% of the manuscripts received by publishing houses globally end up being published by them, and the books usually have a minimum shelf life.
Also, many publishers will simply not deal with you, the spiritual author, ever. They will communicate solely with your literary agent who acts on your behalf when negotiating a contract.
Sadly, it is difficult to access a literary agent, and when you do, to have her give your book the kind of attention you think it well deserves.
There are many agents who don’t have the courtesy to reply to your queries, yes, even the spiritual ones!
Finding an agent and a publisher, and then waiting for your book’s publication can take months and years.
When your book finally does go to market, the publisher, distributor, and agent will each take a slice of the book pie.
You, as a first-time spiritual author, will receive something like a measly 80 cents for each book sold. Certainly not enough to make a living from.
Most authors don’t have a say in their book’s title or cover design. Then, you and only you, are expected to put in all the effort of promoting your book.
This is the hardest part – marketing. That is, thinking and acting like a business. Getting your spiritual book noticed and into the hands of readers.
To be fair, there are authors who do have supportive agents and publishers, and there can be benefits from going the traditional route.
For instance, if your spiritual book does well independently in its niche market and has the potential of going mainstream and pulling in a profit, you may want to take it to another level.
Literary agents and publishers are excellent at dealing with the complexities of publishing and distributing books in foreign markets, where English is not the common language.
They’re also effective at handling the legalities that may arise from having a popular book, like a Hollywood film deal!
The traditional publishing industry has been in major flux since the onset of print-on-demand services and the burgeoning of online technologies which have liberated the author from industry shackles.
Big-time publishers are under a lot of pressure because an individual can now be in complete control of their publishing journey which traditionally was not the case.
Therefore, today, publishing houses are only interested in a ‘sure thing’ – books that will certainly bring in a profit and they are less likely to take a chance on a first-time author.
And because of this financial stress, so many notable publishers including the mind-body-spirit variety, are either directly or indirectly associated with vanity presses.
Vanity publishers offer authors book publishing, distribution, and marketing services at the author’s expense. They offer authors an embellished sense of association with their parent publishing company.
That means, you take all the risk and not them, and you pay for the ‘privilege’ of ‘not really’ being associated with a reputable publisher.
Vanity publishers will also contractually claim the copyright of your book for a few years, own your book’s ISBN and take something like 50% of any sale you make, even though they’re actually doing nothing for you.
Then, if your book does really well, you are obliged to offer up your copyright to its parent publishing company – the big publisher who wasn’t really interested in you in the first place.
Beware of vanity publishers!
The best way forward for many first-time spiritual authors is self-publishing, also known as independent or ‘indie’ publishing.
It requires you to get educated about publishing, distributing, and marketing your book but there is an abundance of free information available on the internet and the process can be empowering!
In two years, I went from knowing ‘zero’ about publishing to knowing enough to feel confident about self-publishing my book, setting myself up as a business, and developing an online presence.
I cannot tell you just how anti-computers I was, and truly, if I overcame my reluctance and anxiety about it, anyone can. You too can become the master of your book’s destiny.
Rather than have it sit on a store shelf for a few weeks or months, your book can have a long life online. If it performs particularly well, the publishing houses will come knocking and you will get a far better deal, than if you’d sought them out in the first instance.
In the meantime, you can use similar distribution channels for your print book as the big publishers do by utilising Ingram Spark or Amazon’s CreateSpace and for your ebook by dealing directly with Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, and Kobo.
And you can pinpoint your target audience effectively by advertising your book on social sites like Facebook which has over a billion users!
Still, if you don’t want to do it all yourself, there are reliable author and self-publishing services (like Pickawoowoo) that can assist you in getting your spiritual book published and distributed worldwide without losing your book’s copyright.
Your author brand
A well thought out author brand attracts an audience of readers. It helps to identify you in a crowd.
It is important that you work your brand out before the publication of your book. However, it’s never too late to refine your brand.
Your audience wants to know what you’re about. Here are seven questions to ask yourself when determining your brand:
- Who am I?
- What do I stand for?
- What makes me emotional?
- What are my likes?
- What is my style?
- What’s different about me?
- What is spirituality to me?
Your brand distinguishes you from other spiritual authors. Therefore, make it clear, strong, and consistent. It will follow you wherever you go.
The easiest way to do this is by having a headshot taken of you and using it often. Make it attractive. Wear something nice. Get your hair (and makeup) done. Ensure good lighting. Smile.
Other ways to demonstrate your brand are by choosing fonts, colours, and images for your website and social media sites that reflect your likes and your unique spirituality.
For instance, you may be a romantic. You love flowers, art, and music, in particular, roses. Red and pink are your favourite colours. You love to write children’s books. Angel wings inspire you.
See, we are already getting a sense of the author. She’s someone who adores children; arty, spiritual, feminine, and fabulous! The design of her sites may reflect this, letting her audience know who she is and what matters to her.
Your love may be for dogs, cats, birds, chocolate, the ocean, the moon, fancy teacups, art deco, geometric shapes, bright colours, earthy colours, etc. Know what you like and then use it graphically to communicate to your audience the feeling of who you are.
A top resource to use in your branding efforts is Canva: a graphic design platform. It provides a brand kit, lots of tips and tricks, and seemingly endless visual creation inspiration.
Note: Do not make your book your brand! This would be a mistake, and if this is something you have done already, it can be rectified. You don’t want your online image restricted by the appearance of your first book.
You may branch out into alternative genres, book cover designs, products, and services. And you don’t want to change your branding every time you publish a new book.
Your audience is what really matters
It is very important to determine who your audience is and to reach out to them. Your audience of readers and spiritual seekers want to be informed and inspired. They want to relate to you.
You can start the process of community building before completing your manuscript and even before writing its first word via social media.
Whenever it is that you begin to engage with your potential readers, know it will require a long-term commitment. It’s something you’ll continually have to manage.
Without an audience, you are a writer with a spiritual book. With an audience, you are a spiritual author and influencer.
Your audience can best be reached via the worldwide web. However, you’re not the only spiritual author who wants the attention of spiritual readers.
In fact, people are being bombarded with new information every day, which is where you and your book most need to be.
So, how are you going to be the one to get through to them? Time helps and persistence, authenticity, and by adding value.
The more benefit you provide, the more connected they will feel to your message, and the more likely they’ll want to be a part of your community, and buy what you sell.
You don’t want to be everywhere at once and feel totally scattered. It’s better to focus on learning how to use two social media sites well and then you can always expand later.
Facebook and Instagram are very popular. Twitter is not as popular as it was. Pinterest can deliver a lot of people to your website. LinkedIn is good for professional networking. And YouTube is wildly popular – if videos are your preferred thing.
It’s worth noting that social media should be thought of as a stepping stone to your website.
Social media is a place for friendly rapport, information sharing, inspiration, fun, and just a little bit of self and product/service promotion.
It’s not a place for hard selling, otherwise, people will just get annoyed and unfriend/unlike you.
Also, you don’t own a social media page. If a social media site ceases to exist one day, you will lose everything you ever posted there and the audience you have there you were able to direct them to your website (and acquire their emails).
Your website is your primary platform and storefront; where your book and brand live. People will come to visit you there, and first impressions matter, very much.
You may make your spiritual book available on other sites too, but your website works best when you own it and it provides your audience with all the information and inspiration they need to buy, share and return for more.
A vital function of your website is its ability to gather emails. Your newsletter subscribers are saying they want more from you – more contact, more content, more inspiration, and more business.
They want more of you because they like what you’re about. Therefore, your website should be thoroughly planned out before it goes live to attract both readers and subscribers.
The best way to get a sense of what works (and doesn’t) when it comes to websites, is to visit a number of competitor sites. Do a Google search: Best Spirituality Websites; 50 Best Website List or 50 Best Blog List.
When you find three websites you really like, make note of what distinguishes them from the others. Then chose one to emulate – do not copy from the website, simply use it as a reference.
Websites can be expensive. However, there are excellent website builders like Weebly and Wix which make it affordable and easy for you to create your own website without needing any programming skills!
If you would prefer complete flexibility and functionality in a content management system and host then look no further than WordPress.
You can purchase a WordPress Theme (template) or have an original website built for you by a programmer.
This latter option will cost you, especially if you rely heavily on a programmer (as WordPress requires coding skills) to design, install and maintain your website, now and into the future.
Importantly, own your domain name. It’s not expensive and ensures your online identity and independence. Bluehost, GoDaddy, Namecheap, and Panthur, are web hosting companies that offer domain name services.
Your domain name (or URL) is the address people use to find where you ‘live’ on the internet. As a spiritual author, it should be your first name (or if you go by a second name) and surname because your name is at the core of your brand.
Don’t name your domain after your spiritual book because there may be other books, products, and services to come. Your name will be the common factor flowing through each of your books.
If you own your domain name then you can have advertising on your website. You may or may not like the idea of advertising on your website. The reality is, websites cost money to run.
An author is a business. And it’s no different if you’re a spiritual author. Just because you work in the spiritual industry doesn’t mean you shouldn’t earn an income or make a profit.
Money amplifies your choices and enables you to bring to your audience’s attention some really beneficial products and services. Think of monetising your site from the onset!