Andrea Waltz - May 31, 2021 - 5 min. read
Selling Books – 3 Essential Truths You Must Understand About It
As someone who has been writing and self-publishing for 20 years, I often get asked for advice from people who’ve written a book and need help with, “book marketing.” I’ve also been in selling books for as many years as we’ve been publishing books.
When it comes to selling books, let’s clear one thing up right away: “book marketing” is a nice way of saying, “book selling.”
In the end, authors don’t want to “market” books they want to sell books.
Here’s the weird thing: it’s a relatively inexpensive product and yet there’s probably nothing harder to sell in this world, than a book. You could sell a t.v., cellphone, or car easier than a book.
Why? Because these days, authors selling books have two major objections which are both well-founded and challenging to overcome:
These days, there’s nothing more valuable than people’s time.
And, when it comes to effort, we all know it’s easier to plop down in front of a screen and put on Netflix than to sit down and focus on reading words. (This is in large part why audiobooks have exploded. It greatly reduces both these objections. You can listen in the car while you drive. No extra time and no effort required, just open your ears!)
So how do you overcome these objections?
It’s possible. Which brings me to the first critical fact when it comes to selling books.
#1. Understand what you are really selling
If you were walking down the street and someone was handing out “free books” would you take one?
Probably not unless you knew something about it. You are not selling someone a collection of pieces of paper stitched together by a spine or an electronic file full of words. (a.k.a: a paperback or e-book).
You’re selling people on the benefits of reading your book. What do they gain by reading? What’s in it for them? Whether fiction and especially non-fiction, you are always selling a solution to a problem with identifiable benefits.
Book: A book on exercises and muscle training for people with lower back pain.
(Benefit: Get pain-free so you can move and enjoy living life with those you love.)
Book: A women’s guide to personal finance.
(Benefit: Make money or keep more of your money to enjoy life on your own terms.)
Book: A creepy, twisted thriller with an explosive ending that you’ll never see coming!
(Benefit: Be wildly entertained and escape boredom, stress, and current life struggles.)
You’ve got to focus on what’s in it for the reader if you want to sell your book. This must be a theme throughout all of your book marketing as well—in everything you post, create, or talk about.
If you cannot articulate the benefit of why someone would read your book, then you are literally selling paper and a spine and it’s going to be a very hard sell.
#2. You can’t outsource all your sales efforts
My heart breaks a little every time I see a post online about hiring someone to help with “book marketing.”
It’s true you can hire people to send a press release, get you on podcasts, write blog posts, or run your Facebook or Amazon ads. I’ve done most of those things.
Unfortunately, the ROI (return on investment) on “book marketing” is fair at best. Spending more and more money isn’t necessarily even the answer.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone ran a Facebook ad that resulted in no sales, I’d be rolling around in money like I hit a jackpot in Las Vegas.
If you don’t have thousands of dollars a month to spend, it’s got to be up to you, the author. What does that look like?
You must build a following of readers (mostly) using online marketing platforms and offline depending on where you can find your readers. You must do podcasts and Facebook Lives sharing your personal story, why you wrote the book, the message, and the benefits of reading. You must write blogs and newsletters.
You must engage readers and book buyers on social media and be “the face.”
Yes, you can outsource people to help with the technical aspects of your marketing efforts but don’t think for a second this is like a faucet that you can turn on to sell books.
#3. Book marketing is forever
Welcome to the world of book marketing. It’s like the “Hotel California.”
You can check in, but you can never leave. If you want your book to keep selling, you’ve got to keep selling it. I’ve been marketing the same book for almost 20 years. The books I don’t really market, don’t really sell. The good news is, if your book is “evergreen” whether fiction or non-fiction, while it might be old to you, it’s new to the reader.
If you get bored or tired of marketing your book and you want to write a new book, that’s fine. Just understand that your role is not going to change.
But you could write a more sellable book with more obvious benefits to the reader and your marketing efforts will suddenly feel far easier. It’s a tough lesson to learn but once people write their first book and start trying to sell it, they get it.
For example, we wrote a book called, “The Fear Factory.” It’s a creative fable about a guy who discovers that there is actually a factory that sells fear to the public.
While it is an engaging story with a powerful ending, we’ve had a hard time selling the benefits of reading it. The book identifies the problem—people have a lot of fears they need to overcome— but did just a fair job of solving it.
So, we don’t market that book as much for that reason.
I realize these might be painful things to read and that’s why I wrote this blog. We will save ourselves a lot of time and anguish if we face the truth. As authors, we love our book and believe in it and put our heart and soul in communicating our message.
So, don’t give up! Focus on what’s in it for the reader, commit to personally putting in the time, effort, and energy to marketing your book, and stay persistent for the long haul. Book sales and more importantly, happy readers, can happen.
If you liked this article you might also like:
• Why First-Time Authors Need an Editor!
• Difference Between Proofreading and Copy Editing – Let’s Answer That!
• Amazon Author Central – How to Setup Your Author Page on Amazon
• The Book Marketplace Has Changed. Make Your Book Available From All the Online Retailers!
• Never Judge a Book By Its Cover! – Are You Really Sure?