Before you can expect to sell books, you must answer two important questions:
- Why should people buy your book?
- How are people going to learn why they should buy your book?
If you can’t sell the book to yourself, it’s not reasonable to expect to sell it to others.
(A) Because your book is good? Lousy answer.
Why? Because that answer won’t help you sell your books. It’s too general. You need something more specific to work with.
If you hope to advertise that your book is the best thing since ____ (fill in the blank with something fantastic), then most people won’t buy your book because it sounds unbelievable and those who do buy your book may be frustrated if it doesn’t live up to those lofty expectations (which can deter word-of-mouth sales, for example).
More importantly, hearing that your book is good doesn’t attract a specific audience. People are more likely to become interested in your book if they learn something specific about it that appeals to them.
If you offer nothing specific, there is a good chance you won’t be attracting any attention at all. When you do offer something specific, some people will think it’s not for them, but that’s okay because if they aren’t the target audience, they aren’t likely to buy it no matter what (and they are less likely to appreciate it). But if they are the target audience, the specific information will help to attract their interest.
(B) Because there is something unique that will appeal to them.
What distinguishes your book from others like it?
You want this distinction to be conveyed through your marketing efforts.
But don’t make the mistake of saying what’s great about your book while at the same time saying what’s bad about other books.
There is a good chance that people in your target audience love those other books. So if you say anything bad about those other books, this is likely to deter sales.
You’re not trying to show that your book is better. You’re trying to show that your book is different and how. This distinction will be appealing to some people in your target audience.
That distinction might be a clean romance, a protagonist who doesn’t fit the genre’s stereotypes, a plot that will help teens deal with difficult situations, a sci-fi novel specifically for computer geeks, or a textbook with a built-in workbook.
(C) Because you were able to interact with your target audience and show them what makes your book special.
Nobody knows your book better than you do. And that’s the problem! You want others to learn what makes your book special.
So what makes your book special? And how will you get the word out to your target audience?
Identify your target audience. Find your target audience. And when you market, you don’t just want people to discover that you wrote a book. You want them to see what makes your book special. This distinction needs to stand out in your marketing.
(D) Because people who enjoyed your book are telling others what makes it special.
Word-of-mouth sales are invaluable, especially when people don’t just mention that a book is good, but take a moment to explain why it’s good.
The first step is to make your book very good, with some aspect that sets it apart. It has to be worthy of a recommendation by a complete stranger.
The second step is to get your book read. You need to market your book effectively to your target audience.
There are a few things you can do to try to encourage word-of-mouth sales. You can search for bloggers who occasionally review books similar to yours and politely request a book review or interview on their blog (and then wait very patiently). You can contact a small local paper with a press release kit. You can let people discover you’re writing a book and what the special feature will be, do cover reveals, etc.
Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
Great tips. Thank you.
You’re welcome. I’m glad you found them helpful. 🙂
I guess the clown suit is out…
Well, if you can juggle 9 of your books while wearing it, that might catch some attention. 🙂
Sorry, no such skill 😦
I like that I could take this info and apply it to fiction well. I find a lot of people who write about marketing books relate mostly about books that sell something…like useful information, rather than entertainment. I think it is harder for a fiction writer to “sell” their books than a non-fiction writer. Your image (like in branding yourself) is part of the entertainment. That’s relatively easy if you are a comedian or an eccentric of some sort.
You’re right about nonfiction authors often having an advantage of starting out with a brand in terms of expertise on the subject. You’re also write about fiction writers being entertainers. Look at some of the big brands to see the potential. Stephen King is selling suspenseful writing; Robert Heinlein sold creative free thinking in the context of science fiction; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sold deductive reasoning. The new author won’t sell books for being a big name, like James Patterson, but can make a name for him- or herself by becoming branded for a special feature in fiction.
Absolutely. Finding the proper target audience and also finding beta readers from that specific group are two steps that many miss and I was very happy to see that you included. I agree to some extent with those who believe advertising is still advertising regardless of how you get the job doe, but not completely. I think the more specific your subject matter is, the more you need to work at reaching your goal audience. Many people do not realise this fully until after they have put their work into the wrong category and not seen it sell or dealt with the audiences either being offended or entirely ignoring them.
Man I am really trying to stop reblogging you all the time Chris. I think I may need a 12 step program. Sorry for the long comment–writer 🙂
Going too general is one of the most common, yet most important mistakes. Authors want to write mystery-romance-fantasy books, thinking that will get 3 times as many readers. The target audience is anyone who has eyes. But it doesn’t work because the marketing and packaging don’t attract a specific audience, and those who find the book realize it wasn’t what they were looking for. Choosing a narrower audience, matching it well, and marketing specifically to them is far more effective. Too bad it’s not intuitive for most writers to do this.
Fortunately, my long-winded nature will help make any long comments that you add seem not so long. 🙂
You cannot out-wind me. Okay, you might be able to but I look good in a skirt. I have spent a lot of time talking with other authors about the pitfalls of marketing their own work. One of the more common things I hear is that when they choose the categories for their books on Amazon, that the powers that be will then move them around into different categories.
This makes it difficult for the author to understand who they are marketing to and even harder for them to sell books to the people that might actually be interested in buying them. Have you done a post previously on this? I am sure you must have.
So what I am trying to say in my incoherent rambling–is that authors, and especially self published authors need to learn how to market their work to specific audiences outside of Amazon as well. Honestly when i first began writing I had no idea that writing the book was not the hard part. I have learned much by epic failure and eventual success. There are so many supportive groups and promotional opportunities that authors fail to realise they can join without cost that match their genre and are followed exclusively by people who would take an interest in their writing.
Cow fell in the mud.
Now I’ve hone and told a dirty joke on your blog as well. Ban me.
Amazon can also add categories, which can help suggest to readers that the book is different than they thought. I guess I should take your advice and post about categories one of these days.
New authors are reluctant to market, and others just want to throw money at marketing. But there are several things that every author should be doing which are free, and those that involve a specific target audience are the most effective.
Good thing that cow didn’t splash; the mud is really thick around these parts. 🙂
I had one of my books, which was a children’s book about manners, show up in the paranormal romance genre on Amazon once. Amazing though…my sales boosted that week. 🙂
You should ban me. I can’t even spell “gone” right.
I will stop now. We could be here talking about books and marketing all night.
We could. 🙂
Stop tempting me:)
Reblogged this on readful things blog and commented:
I swore I wouldn’t do it again but he makes such good points.
Swearing on my blog? You earned a bar of soap! Ha ha. Just kidding. Oh, and thank you. 🙂
Clearly you have not read my blog if you do not know that I have almost as big of a swearing problem as I do a reblogging everything you do problem. 🙂
But I will take the soap so I can clean up the crime scene.
Oh yes, I see all those capital sixth letters over there. Swearing on your blog doesn’t bother me at all. 🙂
You are always welcome to swear on my blog anytime you would like. It is a rather exclusive club of societies more interesting patrons. You may want to keep your valuables close.