Perhaps to a select few, authoring a good book is easy–or at least that select few make it seem effortless.
For the rest of us, it is agony. First, we anguish over getting the manuscript on paper. Then we slave over editing. Next comes marketing, which, for the first novelist, means telling everyone we know, back to the boy who pulled our braids in sixth grade, that we have a book out. Trying to appear professional, we plan to avoid begging, but we beg anyway for someone to buy our book. Finally we sit with angst waiting on the first book sale, then the next, and next. We give ourselves ulcers.
And if the book doesn’t sell, we are crestfallen. Aunt Linda said the book should be on the best seller list. Cousin James said he would buy a copy, then didn’t. Our best friends are avoiding our calls. We line up a book signing–and no one shows up.
Somehow, this doesn’t feel easy.
Without any serious marketing as such, Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe (Hmmmm. Is that singular or plural?) has sold 35 copies of the anthology to date.
And there are two reviews written and posted on Amazon.com. Reading the reviews was exciting. It gave insight and feedback to us on our work.
The sales break down like this:
Amazon.com 34 copies sold
Barnes & Noble 1 copy sold
Several copies have been purchased by the dining patrons of the Desert Rose Cafe. Owner Rose Harris reported there is a lively interest in the book and how the group came to publish it.
Perhaps, in the near future, there will be a “Meet the Writers” event, which may garner a bit of newspaper coverage. That event, or a complimentary newspaper article, may yield a couple of more sales.
What can be done now to sell books?
I have to buckle down and prepare press releases. All of the writers group members need to promote the book on their own social media, blog or web site. This year, I postponed sending out my Christmas letter. I want to write a New Year’s letter and include a promotional blurb in it about the book. Next, I need to put on my thinking cap to figure out other ways to exploit the “local writer” designation.
In sales, they teach you to sell first to family, then to friends or acquaintances, then to neighbors or the local market, then beyond. Until a writer has established himself, the likeliest buyer is someone who knows him or knows of him.
Finally, I need to utilize the “store” component here on WordPress. Obviously, visitors to this site should be able to buy the book.
The lesson in all of this?
Sales don’t magically happen for an author. To sell books, an author has to promote his or her books. That means getting creative so that whatever selling the writer does is effective and affordable.
Writers hate marketing. However, it is a necessary evil, especially for the new author.
Don’t overlook the sales that can be generated by friends or family. Word of mouth is always the best sales tool. A person who reads and likes your book is the most credible advertiser. Ask for help to promote your book.
I would love to hear from other independent authors about the success you’ve had selling your books. Please share the lessons you’ve learned, the mistakes you’ve made or the tactics that have succeeded. In what venue did you sell the majority of your books? Where did things fizzle? What was hard? What worked well?
Talk to me. I am all ears.
My daughter is a busy lady. She was telling me recently about several books she wants to read. She lamented that she doesn’t have time.
“Now if the author put the book out as an audiobook, then I’d buy it and listen in the car.”
I forget that audiobooks are another avenue for reaching the public. Like paperbacks or e-books, it’s another version to sell to broaden your audience. Sell more by releasing your book in an audiobook format.
Click the link at the top of this post for more information.
E-reader owners share a common characteristic: as a group, they want a fun, fast read. Consequently, the length of the traditional novel is shrinking for e-books, from the print book standard of 80,000 to 120,000 words to the shorter e-book equivalent of 50,000 to 60,000.
E-reader owners often read on the fly–on the beach, on the plane, in the car, on the train, on vacation. These readers, as a group, prefer books that can be read quickly, in a day or two.
The new author who figures this out has a couple of advantages.
First, traditional print publishers are slow to offer titles in e-format. Print publishers dislike the e-publishing industry and resist aiding its development. Only best sellers in tree books get quickly converted to e-books. New authors who contract themselves to a traditional print publisher may never see their titles in e-format until their contract expires, reducing the writer’s exposure in the marketplace.
In negotiating terms with the traditional print publisher, new writers should retain e-book rights or require the return of the rights to the author if the print publisher doesn’t exercise the option to e-publish the book within a set time frame.
Second, an author can produce more material for sale in the e-book environment. In theory, a writer can produce two 50,000 word books in the same time it takes to create one 100,000 word manuscript. A smart writer will find a way to cut a longer manuscript into two connected stories, and have two stand alone books for sale simultaneously. Readers who like one book are going to buy the other. It doubles the creator’s income.
Finally, readers who own electronic devices also buy short stories. A typical 7,000 word short story can be sold via e-booksellers like Amazon.com.
I hope you have found a few helpful strategies here for your own book business.
CBS reported on their morning news program that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as an e-book. After e-publishing exposure, it was picked up by a traditional publisher. The rest, as they say, is history.
Barnes & Noble reports this year there has been an excellent line-up of hardback books, resulting in an uptick in book sales. Fifty Shades of Grey has been one of the stellar performers, flying off bookshelves.
In my opinion, e-publishing enables new authors to get exposure and build a following. Success in the e-market can lead to success in the traditional book market. It is an encouraging time for new writers. Afterall, Fifty Shades of Grey is the author’s first novel.
Barnes & Noble reports in-store book sales were up 4.5% in the last quarter. Despite this uptick, Barnes & Noble is still operating at a loss.
E-books are expected to be the future of publishing. Nevertheless, print books still outsell e-books in today’s market.
The link above is to Kristin Lamb’s blog. The linked article is invaluable to anyone who plans to self-publish. The key points she makes are:
- Self-publishing makes it too easy to publish poor material.
- Learn the business of writing before publishing.
- Marketing is a necessary evil in order to sell books.
- Don’t give your books away for free.
- The minute you publish your first book, start your next one.
In a previous post, I linked to Ryan Tracy’s Tips and Tricks for Self-Publishers, Part 4. His post gives some advice (learned from his own experience as an author selling on Amazon.com) for authors who have completed writing and editing and are ready to upload a book to Amazon.com. He suggests practices to get the most out of marketing your e-book.
I adore the simplicity of his premise: use all the bells and whistles available to you to tell the world about you and your book. Sometimes simple gimmicks make extraordinary differences. So try them.
The average e-book author who is independently published sells a mere 45 copies per title. Use Ryan’s suggestions to take yourself out of average status into the stellar sphere. In his words:
“Another tactic I think is often overlooked is to take advantage of all the bells and whistles on your book’s profile page on Amazon. For example:
• Solicit “likes” and customer reviews.
• Activate Look Inside the Book.
• Upload customer images.
• Add keyword tags.
• Add book extras via Shelfari.
• Create an author page.”
In case you missed Ryan’s post the first time, you may read it in its entirety here:
The link above leads to a great read for the author who hasn’t yet started a blog. It explains how a blog can help you develop an audience for your work.
In my opinion, blogging does something else. It teaches you how to interact with your readers and let’s you practice and develop those skills.
As a closet introvert, it is work for me to “act” extroverted. I like interacting with people. That is genuine. But it takes a toll on me, whereas the real extrovert gets energized by interaction. Give and take with readers is part of being a commercially successful author.
The work of the author continues long after the book has been written and published. The role includes marketing the book. That means public speaking, book signings, and promotion, promotion, promotion. Blogging can help prepare an author for the public relations aspect of writing.
Here’s a list of interesting statistics:
- The average independently published author sells 45 copies per book title in a lifetime.
- The average traditionally published author sells 4,500 copies per book title in a lifetime.
- Nora Roberts sells 81 books per minute.
The explanation of the Roberts Success Formula, according to Fay, follows:
Nora Roberts writes and markets every business day from 9 to 5. She treats writing as her job, not her passion or avocation or hobby. She understands that successful selling is part of her role. Her results demonstrate that.
Successful writing is work. It is creation, re-writing, publication, marketing, and sales.
Whew. I am tired just thinking about it. Where’s my vitamin bottle? I am in training, and I’ve already got my running shoes on.