So, about selling your own book…
So, you think writing a book is hard? Well, then you probably haven’t tried selling it yet, because that’s where the real slog begins. Or at least that’s what it feels like for a lot of people. The reason for this, in our experience, is that most self-published authors simply take the wrong approach to selling their books. By “wrong approach” we mean putting one’s books up for sale via their chosen sales channels, making a few social media posts about it, and waiting for people to buy it. It just doesn’t work that way. There are far too many books being published every day for people to even notice, let alone care, about your book. If you want writing to be a profitable hobby, you’re going to have to roll up those sleeves. Don’t worry though, you don’t have to do it just yet—you can put it off until you’ve finished reading this article!
First things first; before you even have a book to sell, you should be marketing said book as much as possible. Obviously, you’re fully aware of this, since you’ve undoubtedly already read our beginner’s guide to book marketing, which does an excellent job of getting you started. However, as this article is specifically about sales, we won’t be delving into the marketing aspect this time around. It’s important that you be aware, however, that the tips we share with you in this article are going to be less effective if you haven’t invested time and energy into your marketing beforehand. One of the reasons for this is the overlap between the first step of both the sales and marketing processes: identifying your target demographic, or niche.
1. Identify your niche
Alright, this first step is really easy, because you should already have done it when developing your marketing strategy. Why do we keep prattling on about finding a target audience in so many articles? Because it’s really, really important, that’s why. We can’t even stress this enough. So, if you thought you’d read enough about identifying target audiences by now, think again (or just skip ahead, that’s fine too)!
You can also skip ahead if you’ve already identified your target audience (good job!). If you haven’t, stay right here, we’re going to talk a bit about how to go about it.
Why do I need a target audience? Shouldn’t I just sell my book to everyone?
The short answer to this question is that you need a target audience because you’re not a door-to-door salesman. You shouldn’t sell your book to everyone because:
- You literally can’t
- Not everyone will want your book and nobody likes a pushy salesperson
So how do you avoid spending all your time and energy trying to sell your book to people who will never want it? Well, you start by doing some research to find out who might conceivably want your book, and the best way to reach them. As mentioned before, this is something you should be doing while writing your book, as part of your marketing plan. Now you might be asking yourself, hypothetically: if one had skipped this vital step—how would one find these people? Well, let’s find out!
Finding your audience
A good place to start is by trying to imagine how your book could be the solution to someone’s problem or an answer to someone’s question. If your book is a romance novel set in 18th century Vienna, you ought to try to find people and communities interested in this combination of time period, genre, and/or place. Presumably, people in these communities have trouble finding new books to occupy themselves with. Similarly, if your book is about how to start a successful online tulip shop, you can most likely find a very interested audience among entrepreneurial florists, wherever they may congregate online.
Once you’ve figured out whose problem you’re solving with your book, it’s time to do some creeping. Reddit is a great place to begin because there’s a subreddit for just about every conceivable group, interest, or philosophy. If you can’t find a community that’s specific enough (like one dedicated to entrepreneurial florists for instance), it’s not the end of the world. You can opt for a more general community instead (like r/entrepeneurs).
But why are we even doing this? Well, the goal of this whole process in relation to selling your book is that we’re trying to figure out how to make your offer as enticing as possible. Your marketing efforts should already have spread the word about your upcoming book within relevant communities. Having established the presence of your book in the minds of your audience, it’s time to show them why they should spend their hard-earned money on your particular solution. How you may ask?
2. Offer extras
We all know how hard it can be to resist freebies and 2-for-1 deals. You can utilize that for your book as well. Cliché as it sounds, the only thing limiting you here is your imagination. Use the knowledge of your book and your target audience to create enticing combo offers for your future readers.
For example, if you have a self-help book, you can publish a workbook to accompany it. This will allow readers to actively engage with your book as they progress through whatever curriculum you have them following. Offer this workbook for free to your readers to provide them with extra value. If you’re writing fiction, you could do something similar by publishing an extra booklet with “deleted” chapters. Fantasy is a genre that lends itself very well to this, as you can easily put together a sort of scrapbook explaining the lore of your setting. Even if you don’t have any meta content to build on, you can just publish an e-book version of your printed book and offer it to your customers for free. Since you can publish and download your e-book free of charge on our website, this can be a free promotional tool.
If you feel particularly ambitious, you can also arrange for bookmarks to be printed and have these sent to people (perhaps in exchange for a picture of their order confirmation). Of course, a bookmark isn’t really anything to get excited about, but it does add a personal touch and shows customers that you appreciate them buying your book. A bit of appreciation like that can go a long way!
These are of course just a few examples of things you could do to add value to your book. Many of the possibilities will be dependent on the book itself and the knowledge and resources available to you. If you’ve researched your target audience well enough, you ought to be able to come up with some kind of deal-sweetener for future readers.
3. Approach local bookstores
So you have your book. It’s ready to go. Print a few copies and take to your local bookstore. Engage whoever is in charge in a conversation; introduce yourself and your book. Ask if they’d be interested in stocking it and offer it to them at a heavily discounted price (they won’t be interested otherwise). Alternatively, you could even offer it to them for free and hope that it’s interesting enough to make customers buy it. If your book gets sold out, chances are the bookstore will be willing to buy a few more copies off you.
4. Record a video pitch
If you’re the type of person who is comfortable talking on video, then this is a sort of modern version of the bookstore pitch. Of course, instead of trying to convince some skeptical bookstore owner, this method brings you directly to the screens of your future readers. This has the advantage of putting you directly in touch with your actual target group, which of course means that you are making more money per sold copy than if you were to sell via a bookstore.
So, why are we bothering with a video? Well, let’s preface this by saying that if you’re not very confident as a presenter, then you actually shouldn’t. A nervous, faltering sales pitch in a video will definitely do more harm than good. If you’re confident in your rhetorical capabilities, however, this method may well give you good results.
The reason for this is that people really like a personal angle. The days of sterile, corporate, and standardized sales pitches are over—people just aren’t buying it. You’re going to want to share your journey as an author with them and make them realize how passionate you are about your book project. Of course, you should give them a tantalizing glimpse of what kind of content they can expect to read, but don’t neglect the personal touch! Also, be sure to let people know how much you’d appreciate it if they gave your book a chance – they’re doing you a favour after all! You shouldn’t forget to mention any extras that you might have chosen to include, be it a free e-book version or a bookmark. Lastly, don’t forget to direct people to your sales channel of choice!
Once you have your video pitch, upload it (or share a link to it) in the places where your previously researched target audience will see it. Ask them to share it if possible – having some ambassadors is always a great help when it comes to marketing and selling your book.
5. Host a book launch party
While you should always have some kind of event to mark the publication of your book regardless of your goals, it can be made into a solid sales opportunity if you wish. While you should reserve a few copies of your book to give away to key individuals during your presentation, you can also use the occasion to get some sales in as well. Whether you want to make it a bit more traditional and offer your book at a set price, you can also set up a “pay what you want” station. This would basically be a pile of books that people can grab and leave some money for in return. This can result in some very generous donations from people who want you to succeed.
Of course, the key to this particular sales strategy is making sure your guests enjoy themselves. If they don’t, they’re not likely going to be in a generous mood! As such, make sure you have a nice engaging soiree planned. Include dynamic, engaging activities like speeches, readings, video presentations, and special guests. Also, make sure to have a decent supply of snacks and drinks at hand, to get a good buzz going. Basically, you want to throw a birthday party for your book! We have a checklist for book launches that you can use to prepare. It’s going to get a face-lift soon, but it still gets the job done.
6. Think about how to sell your book—not just a book
No matter how many tips we end up giving in an article like this, it’s always going to be somewhat general. We show you where to begin, as well as a bunch of different ways to reach your sales goals, but you’re the only one who can identify the right path to take in order to reach them. That’s why it’s really important that you don’t simply use these tips as a checklist. Rather, you ought to see them as individual tools which you can select to build a toolbox specifically designed to sell your book. Some tools are better suited to self-help books than fantasy books, and vice versa. Some tools are limited by your location. Others are reliant on a budget. Then, of course, there are tools that we haven’t even discussed here that might be the perfect fit for your book. That’s why you have to reflect on your book and how best to sell it. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here.
What you can do, however, is use these tips as stepping stones or blueprints that can lead you to a larger, more sophisticated sales plan. Mix and match, add or subtract elements when necessary. The only wrong way of going about this is not doing anything and expecting your book to sell itself!
Now go sell out!
Alright, if things have gone according to plan, this article has given you some useful pointers for selling your book. Use the tips and tools outlined in this article to craft a sales strategy uniquely suited to your book.