If you publish a book, there is a pretty good chance that you want to sell it. Better yet, you want to sell lots of copies of it. Yet, most books don’t sell. That includes traditionally published books, where seven out of ten don’t earn back their advances — meaning the books don’t sell enough copies to give the author a royalty — and self-published books, where most sell fewer than 100 copies.
Sounds like publishing your book is a losing proposition.
And it is, for most people.
But it doesn’t have to be for you. The reason most books don’t sell, is simply because they are not properly marketed. What am I saying? Some books aren’t marketed at all. Yet their authors expect readers to magically appear, clamoring for their work. Book publishing is not a build-it-and-they-will-come venture. It’s a market it, build it, market it, market it, market it and they will come venture.
You can successfully sell your book. I’ve done it and I’ve helped clients do it. Here are some ways you can do it.
Hit the social networks
Social media has become an essential part of any marketing mix. There is no one right network, but there is a right way to network. Choose one or several networks that you like and can contribute to on a regular basis. It does you little good to sign up for a dozen social networks when you aren’t going to participate in that many. And don’t be afraid to experiment. Sign up, learn the culture, get a feel for whether this network is the right place for you. One simple test for whether it’s the right network?: Can you find your audience there? If you are using social networks to market your books, then it’s important that you find your audience on those networks.
If it feels like ghost town, find another network.
Create your profile on the network and go looking for your target readers. Once you find your audience, the key to successfully marketing on social networks is moderation. It’s a natural instinct to think that you should hammer people with your sales message, but the opposite actually holds true on social networks. People go to Facebook, for instance, to have fun, see what their friends are up to, and to socialize. They aren’t there to be peppered with “Buy my stuff,” messages all day. A good rule of moderation to use is a 7-to-1 or 8-to-1 equation. For every one time you post a sales message, post some other type of message — inspirational, informative, how-to, entertaining, etc.
And stay on topic. Do posts related to the topic of the book or topics your target audience will find interesting. This can help build your brand. But if your posts are all over the place, it can be hard for your readers to know what exactly you stand for or how seriously they should take you. This doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself on your social networks. You absolutely want to be yourself. But you also want to put your book at top-of-mind for your readers. You have a bit more freedom on your personal page, such as your personal Facebook wall or your personal Twitter profile, but if you have created a profile for your book, then try to stick to related topics. If you are using your personal profile to market, then you can be a bit more general with the topics you post about, but even there, make sure your posts are in keeping with that part of your personality or the brand you want most to focus on.
Get in the media
It might not be much fun, but getting up to appear on a morning news show might need to be a part of your book promotion plan. When I launched my early books, I included this in my book promotion arsenal. I appeared on local morning shows to discuss topics related to my books. Television isn’t as strong as it once was, thanks to the proliferation of social media and other Internet-related opportunities, but it is still pretty strong. And getting on a television broadcast can help spread the word about your book in a way that other efforts may not. So make sure to reach out to print and broadcast media when it comes to book marketing.
So write a press release and send it off to the media. The thing to remember about promoting your book to the media is to avoid the No. 1 mistake most authors make: They write the press release about the book. Don’t do it. Producers, reporters, and editors don’t care that you’ve written a new book. They care about what you know that will entertain, enlighten, or educate their audiences. So write the press release about some way your expertise ties into something going on in the news or relates to a topic of interest. For instance, one of our clients at RootSky Books, Sheron Patterson, wrote The Blessings and Bling: How Faith and Fashion Helped Me Survive Breast Cancer, and has shown up on television, in newspapers, on blogs, and in magazines. That’s her on the magazine cover that accompanies this post. She doesn’t just promote her book. She doesn’t say, “Hey, look at me. I wrote a book.” Instead, she promotes her message of hope, survival, and education. She raises awareness for breast cancer and money for research for a cure. She sold out of books at a recent book signing in Los Angeles.
This isn’t only for authors of nonfiction. It’s also appropriate for authors of fiction. What issue does your novel deal with? Even if it’s a light and fun novel, chances are, it also deals with some real issue, whether that’s dating, love, divorce, abuse, health, greed, power, success, or some other. Tie it in to the news of the day and land some media interviews.
Speak about it
You don’t have to be a great orator to use speaking as a marketing tool for your book. Speaking can be a way to collect people around you who are interested in your book’s topic, and by extension, your book. Speaking serves two purposes: It makes your target audience aware of you and it lets you more easily find that target audience. So consider it for your promotional efforts. Local organizations are always looking for speakers. Many have weekly or monthly meetings and the program chairs are constantly tasked with coming up with programs that will interest and engage members. Landing you to speak about a topic they are interested in will make the program chair look good and will get the members interested in that meeting’s topic. So send out press releases or personal notes to local organizations to let them know you are available to speak.
You can also host your own speaking engagements by holding events related to your book’s topic. If your book is about fitness and nutrition, for instance, then consider a workshop or seminar on “Ten ways to lose weight during the holidays,” or “How to develop a fitness habit when you are busy,” or some other appropriate topic.
You can give away your book at the event if you want to use your book as a marketing tool to sell other products or services you offer. (Using your book itself as a marketing tool to sell higher-priced products and services is an excellent way to promote your business and is one of the ways many of our clients use their books.) Or you can sell it at the event. I’ve done both. I’ve given away books as marketing tools and I’ve sold books at events. In fact, many authors use speaking as their primary marketing tool. Imagine a captive audience of 500 people listening to your 20-minute talk. And if half those buy the book, then that’s 250 book sales for 20 minutes of speaking.
One of our clients recently messaged me to let us know he has gone into his third printing and is on track to get 10,000 copies of his books into the hands of readers in the next few days — just two-and-a-half months after we helped him publish the book! He’s marketed using a variety of methods, including speaking and events.
Your blog is a great way to gather people to you who are interested in your topic. Many bloggers abandon their efforts after a few months because they don’t feel anyone is listening. But building a successful blog takes time. Even in the beginning stages when your blog is not as popular as you hope it will be one day, you are doing important work. You are building a body of work online that increases your authority and expert status. You are sharing your information, which promotes your related books and products.
You can also guest post, which is where you approach bloggers in your industry or those whose audience is similar to yours and offer to write a post or two for them. Guest posting allows you to promote your work by getting in front of a larger blogger’s readers. If you choose to guest post, make sure your first priority is to write a great post for your host. Don’t try to be overly promotional to send people back to your blog. Just write a great, informative post, and if you’ve done your job, then readers will follow you back to your blog. They will do this by checking out the bio box at the end of the post and clicking into it for more information.
Build the list
No matter where you choose to find readers, it’s important to stay connected with them. Create a mailing list and encourage your social media followers and friends, your event attendees, your blog readers, and others who are interested in what you have to say, to sign up for it. You can offer something of value for free in exchange for their sign-up. That something might be a newsletter that includes insight and information. It might be a free chapter from your book. It might be access to an event you are holding. It might be a free copy of another of your books.
But don’t make the mistake of kidnapping readers to your list. Kidnapping subscribers is where you just add someone to your mailing list without permission and send them your commercial emails. It’s illegal. And it’s rude. Not to mention counterproductive. Many authors think just adding people to their mailing lists will somehow make those people want to buy their books, even though those people have expressed no interest in the books or the authors. I’ve yet to find myself falling in love with a message someone spammed me with. I delete spam, as do most others who receive it. So save yourself the time and drama of kidnapping people to your list. Only add people who give you permission.
And don’t hold them hostage. When subscribers find your message no longer useful or interesting, let them unsubscribe. You only want people on your mailing list who want to be there. Those are the ones most interested in your message and book. If they don’t want to be there, then let them go. Doing otherwise doesn’t serve you or the other person.
Your mailing list will be the single-best marketing tool over time. That is because, if you build it right, it will include people who are most interested in what you have to say. These are the people who have joined your list, who have grown to trust and respect what you say, and who want to learn from or be entertained by you.
I didn’t build a mailing list for the longest time, when I started out writing books. I would have mailing list signup forms at events and lots of people would sign up, but I would inevitably lose them or not incorporate those names into my online database. As a result, I lost the opportunity to stay in touch with many readers who told me they wanted to hear what I had to say. I am more conscious of my mailing list now and take care of it, but I offer my experience in this area as a cautionary tale. Take care of your mailing list from the start.
Pulling it all together
A good book marketing plan incorporates a mix of ways to reach your audience. Sign up for one or two social networks. Participate regularly, sharing valuable information relevant to your target reader. Send out press releases that showcase your expertise and tie you and your book to a current event or topic of interest. Blog to build an online reputation and create a body of work that creates trust in the reader. Speak at events or places where your target reader will be. You can speak at local events to develop a presence right in your own backyard, appear in local and regional media to raise your visibility in your geographic area, and focus on social media and your blog to build a national or international presence. As you gain confidence and grow, you can expand your speaking to higher-profile events or approach larger media outlets.
I’ve successfully marketed my books and I’ve helped clients to do it also. In fact, I’ve built a whole business on my books. I’ve earned bestseller status when I’ve marketed my books properly. And I’ve seen my book sales slow to a trickle when I’ve gotten distracted and not marketed them. That’s because book marketing is not a set it and forget it proposition. Nor is it something you can do one time and then no more. The great thing about the marketing ideas I’ve shared here is that they allow you to use them in an ongoing way, so you can build your book’s presence and grow and grow.
I’ve seen clients whose books have helped them meet their business objectives — the books have helped them spread their messages, build their brands, and position themselves as experts. Those books became investments that produced results.
Whether you’ve written a great book or hired a ghostwriter to do it for you, promoting that book becomes the main priority if you want to give it life. You can promote it yourself or hire someone to do it. The point is that you have to do it. Don’t think your book is so great that people will just stumble upon it. Be as deliberate and purposeful in the marketing as you were in the writing.
A book can sell as long as you are willing to sell it. Ideally, you’ll start marketing your book three to six months before it is released. But if your book is already out and you’ve not done much marketing, then that’s OK. Just get into gear now. You can sell your book for years, just by marketing it. Your book can do what most others do not: Sell! You can sell your book into profitability or even a new revenue stream for your business.