Marketing & Selling Your Book 101

I’m going to be honest with you: no matter how great your book is, it won’t mean jack if you don’t know how to market it. You could literally write the next Great American Novel on par with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Catcher in the Rye, and it could end up gathering dust on the library shelves for years to come. In the world of authorship, writing is only half the battle. The real work is getting your book into the hands of readers. But how do you do that?

Marketing in this day and age is infinitely easier than it was even ten years ago thanks to the Internet. It’s 2016 – the age of information, where we’re able to share data across the planet in an instant. That means that there are numerous ways to market your book to a worldwide audience. However, that doesn’t mean that your book is going to be flying off the shelves right from the get-go. You need to know the what, where, when, and hows of marketing if you want to succeed.

First, we’ll go with the basics. You know the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? As great as it sounds, it’s not like everyone follows this message (at least, in a literal sense). While browsing through the bookstore shelves, it’s very unlikely that someone will  be interested in a book with a Plain Jane cover that simply states the book title and the author. You need a vibrant and entrancing cover that will catch people’s eyes and make them go, “Whoa, what’s this about?!” Choose a cover that really POPS from the bookshelves and that will make people do a double-take when they pass by. Your cover is the bait on the end of a long fishing line. But you won’t catch any fish if you don’t have a strong hook.

You have two ways to hook readers. First, you can include a brief blurb on the back cover or inside flap that briefly summarizes the synopsis. Don’t reveal too much of the story. Write a basic overview that will give people a good idea of what kind of book it is, and then leave them craving for more. For example:

John Smith enjoys the finer things in life. He likes to ride his bike, play catch with his friends, and watch TV. One day, a mysterious object falls from the sky and lands in his backyard. What he finds inside is going to change his life forever…

Granted, that’s a very hastily put-together statement that I just whipped up in five minutes, but you will notice how it has the elements of a proper book blurb. It draws you in and makes you wonder. What is the object? What did John find inside? How will it change his life? You want people to ask questions that can only be answered by reading the book.

The other way to truly hook a reader is to have a solid opening page. I remember my old creative writing teacher telling me how, when she goes book shopping, she’ll read the first page of a book to see if it piques her interest. No enticing first page, no sale. Onto the next book!

All these points I’ve stated so far are ways to market your book while you’re still writing and publishing it. What about after you’ve completed the publishing process? How do you market your book then? What’s the next step?

Two words: social media.

Social media has become one of the best marketing tools of the past couple of years. Virtually everyone is on some form of social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or more. These sites are all about being social (duh!). Instead of using your social media to post selfies from Bermuda or to share the latest article about Donald Trump, why not take advantage of it for promoting your writing?

Make a dedicated authorship page for Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, and even Pinterest and YouTube. There are countless ways to leverage each of these sites to promote your writing. Make sure you add a link to these pages in your email signature, and don’t forget to include the URLs on your business cards!

But a word of advice: don’t make these pages solely to promote your book. If all you’re doing on your author social media pages is telling people to buy your book, you’re not going to build a solid following. You should vary your posts. Talk about the writing process, discuss big topics in the writing world, share your thoughts about your favorite genres, post funny memes – have fun with it! Give people a reason to follow you, and make sure you’re not ONLY selling your book.

Let’s step away from the digital realm for now. How else can you get your book out there? Well, the good ol’ fashioned way is to get in touch with local small businesses and ask if they’d be willing to stock your title. Most big chains such as Barnes & Noble have strict guidelines with stocking self-published works, so it’s best to try the smaller, indie locations such as cafes and bookstores.

Recently, I started placing copies of my book in Little Free Library booths around the area. These tiny kiosks are all over my neighborhood, and if you check out their official site, you’re bound to find some in your own town. Drop off a copy every month or two. You’d be surprised at how quickly they’ll fly off the shelf. Don’t forget to add a business card along with the book so that people will know to follow you!

Also, ask your readers to leave a review online, whether it’s on your Facebook page, the book’s Amazon page, or Goodreads. Before buying a book, many readers will check out the online reviews to see if it’s up their alley. Therefore, the more reviews under your title, the better!

It takes about a minute to leave feedback on Amazon or Goodreads, and it can do wonders for increasing your book’s credibility. What’s there to lose? Just tell people, “Hey, once you’re done reading, do you mind leaving a little feedback on one of these sites?” The worst that can happen is if they say, “No”.

Finally, a great way to market and sell your book is to attend major events. Book-signings, conventions, book fairs, etc. – these are all fantastic ways to reach a wider audience. With a little bit of Googling, you’re bound to find several local events where you can pitch your book to new readers and interact with other indie authors. These events are fun ways to break into the world of authorship, and it’s always fun to meet people in a similar position as you. The last event I attended was a comic convention in Philadelphia, and although I didn’t make a huge amount of sales, I did get to talk to other amazing authors who shared their own insight on the writing and publishing process.

There is no golden ticket to selling your work. You can’t just write a book and expect it to start selling on its own. As with any business venture, it takes a little bit of luck, and A LOT of effort before you reach success.

Also, while none of these tips are guaranteed to instantly turn you into a best-selling author, they WILL show you how to network with people and build up a fan-base. If you find out that one idea doesn’t work, don’t get discouraged. No author ever became an overnight success. They all just kept pushing and pushing until they eventually struck the sweet spot.

Is there a particular topic you’d like me to cover in a future post? Leave a comment, or head on over to my Facebook page and share your thoughts!

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