Sales Psychology for Authors

Salesman pic


I had been a salesman at Sears for several years paying my way through college.

  • But I loathed salesmanship.
  • So I found ways to help match people with products that didn’t feel like salesmanship.

Now I’m an author who has books for sale.

  • But I still loathe salesmanship.
  • Marketing is an important tool for selling books.
  • So I’ve discovered ways to help match readers with books that don’t feel like salesmanship.

Many authors feel like writing artists.

  • Their writing is fueled by passion, not by finance.
  • The reason they want sales is to share their passion with readers.

Many authors don’t feel like salespeople.

  • Yet they need to sell books in order to share their passion.
  • So they need to find ways to market their books that don’t feel like salesmanship.

Marketing without Salesmanship

What you want to avoid:

  • Hyping up the book to sound better than it really is.
  • Convincing people to buy your book.
  • Feeling more like a businessperson than an author.
  • False advertising, dishonesty, deception, unethical behavior.
  • Trashing other books to make yours seem better.
  • Short-term sales strategies that may limit long-term success.

What you want to achieve:

  • Describing your book as it really is in a way that creates interest.
  • Increased exposure among your target audience.
  • Content so amazing it generates word-of-mouth sales.
  • A loyal fan base that craves your writing.
  • Branding a positive image as a professional author.
  • A professional author platform focused on long-term success.

I’ve been on the sales floor. I’ve heard people say that a product is bad because it’s not in stock then explain why it’s the best when it is in stock. I saw a salesman get caught selling products to his friends who were using stolen credit cards. Many would ignore customers looking at cheap products so as not to miss a customer looking for a high-end product. I’ve been the victim of people who returned products that I sold then “resold” them under their own numbers. It’s amazing what unscrupulous things one can do just to make a few extra sales.

But I also had the honor to work mostly with honest, ethical salespeople. I enjoyed learning the art of helping people find products that met their needs. There were a few shady salespeople with unbelievable numbers. There were also a couple of amazing, honest salespeople with incredible numbers. The trick was to compare yourself to how well you did the previous month, not to what other people are doing. Some of the notorious salespeople eventually met their doom. And the talented salespeople simply played in a different league than I did.

Don’t worry about authors and publishers who may have unethical practices. Those things tend to take care of themselves. Don’t worry about extraordinary authors whose words seem to turn to gold. They live in fairy tale land. Just compare yourself to your previous self. You’re the only person you should hope to improve.

Use sales psychology to help match readers up with books that fit them well. You don’t really want to sell your book to readers for whom it would be a poor fit. You want readers who are likely to enjoy your book, want to read your other books, and who are likely to recommend your book to others.

Here is some sales psychology that you can use to help share your passion without feeling like a salesperson:

  • Ultimately, the product is more important than the package, but consumers are strongly influenced by the packaging. So while the book itself is most important for long-term success, the title, cover, blurb, and Look Inside are critical toward getting discovered. A cover that looks professional suggests that the content may be worthy. A cover that attracts the target audience helps to match readers with your book.
  • Get a cover that appeals to your specific target audience and which conveys your subgenre instantly. The better your cover achieves this, the more interest you will create in your book just by getting the cover discovered by your specific target audience. If you get a fantastic cover, use it as motivation to make the content of your book equally fantastic.
  • Don’t hype the book up in the blurb, but do write in a highly engaging way and hint at the book’s best elements to create interest in your book without giving too much away. Your goal is to create reasonable expectations for your book while at the same time motivating your target audience to peek inside.
  • Prepare a Look Inside that delivers content that the reader will expect from the cover and blurb. Engage the reader’s interest right off the bat, arouse the reader’s curiosity, and make the target audience want to read more. But ensure that the remainder of the book will live up to the expectations created by the Look Inside.
  • The title, cover, blurb, Look Inside, and the book’s content serve as your sales staff. They can help your target audience find your book, and they can do it in your absence. Online, these are the only things standing between the shopper and the sale. But it’s much more than a sale; it’s a chance to share your passion with your audience.
  • Consumers don’t buy features; they buy benefits. Think about the best features of your book. Then figure out how these features benefit readers. But don’t express the benefits as promises (“This book will make you cry”) or bragging (“better than Harry Potter“). These features should be clear in your description and back cover blurb, and the benefits should be clear. In fiction, the benefits need to be much more implicit.
  • Write content that lives up to the promises delivered by the cover, blurb, and Look Inside. Provide content that readers will believe is a good value. Write content that is likely to elicit good recommendations, such as a highly memorable character, an amazing plot, valuable information, or breathtaking descriptions. A wow-factor can do wonders for reviews and referrals.
  • Interact with your target audience, both in person and online. You don’t need to advertise your book; you can wait to be asked a question like, “What have you been up to lately?” Let people discover that you’ve written a book and ask you about it; then you won’t feel like a salesperson. When you get the opportunity to describe your book, show your passion for your writing. You’re sharing your passion for writing more than you’re sharing a book.
  • Create a catchy strap line for your book that works like a slogan. You want something concise, easy to remember, and which conveys the subgenre clearly.
  • Strive to brand a positive image for you and your book. People don’t run to the store immediately after a commercial. Advertising often works months later, when the customer stands in an aisle and recognizes a brand. You want your target audience to recognize your thumbnail, title, or author photo from having seen it a few times before.
  • In person, place your book in the customer’s hands. Keep your hands occupied. If the customer manages to place the book back in your hands, open the book toward the customer and point to a feature. The longer the customer holds your book, the more attached the customer becomes to it. If your book matches the customer’s reading interests, you’re helping the reader visualize the happiness that your book can provide in his or her hands.
  • Treat your readers well. Think highly of your readers. Consider what you like as a reader, and what you like as a shopper. With everything you do, ask yourself if you feel more like a salesperson doing it, or if you feel more like an author who is sharing his or her passion with readers.
  • People are more likely to get interested in a passionate author than a physical book. Interact with your target audience to help create interest in you, with the hope that such interest will carry over to your book. It’s easier for you to engage your target audience than it is for your book because first someone has to pick up your book and start reading it; they just have to meet you, they don’t have to open you up and turn your pages to discover what’s inside. People you personally interact with are more likely to buy, read, review, and recommend your book.
  • There are many different styles of thinking. You’re just one person. Seek feedback from multiple people in your target audience throughout the writing and publishing process. This will help you gauge how people may react to your title, cover, blurb, Look Inside, and the content itself.

Here are a few ways that you can market your book feeling less like a salesperson and more like a passionate writer:

  • Think of social media as a means to interact with your audience, colleagues, and others, rather than a way to advertise your book.
  • Think of a blog as an opportunity to share more writing and to interact with other bloggers, instead of a means to gain exposure.
  • Think of an author website as a chance to provide valuable content to your target audience, versus a place to sell your book.
  • Think of press release kits, author interviews, and blog tours as opportunities to share your passion with readers, not as tools to stimulate sales.

Remember, marketing is about discovery and branding, tools that can help you share your passion, not about advertising and not about the sales or royalties. Personal interactions serve as a valuable tool that every author can utilize; it’s a chance to let your passion show through.

Motivate yourself. Not with money. Not to be a bestseller. To share your passion. Remind yourself that you’re not marketing to sell books, you’re marketing to share your passion with others.

Get inspired. Find things that other authors have done that can inspire you.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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