Few things sell simply because they exist. When you’ve just spent time finishing a project, that can be hard to remember. It’s true: there’s a big difference between making and self-publishing your own book and marketing it. Getting your book to sell might seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. You have to make a plan to promote your book successfully.
- Set Your Goals
- Know Your Audience
- Add Professional Polish
- Build a Following
- Grow Your Arsenal
- Get Your Book Reviewed
- Be Consistent, Be Steady
Set Your Goals
What defines success for your book? How many copies do you need to sell to make a profit? To break even? What do you want your book to do? Open doors for speaking opportunities? Establish credibility and expertise? These are questions you need to answer before you can move forward. How many copies of your book you want to sell and why will determine your approach.
Know Your Audience
Who do you want to read your book? “Everyone” is not an answer. The book you made isn’t equally for your mom as it is for your professional circle as it is for your 5-year-old niece. The content was personal to you, and you intend it to be personal to someone else. Who is your ideal reader? What does your reader want from life? What will your reader want from your book? Hopefully, you considered this as you were creating your book. If not, it might be time for some revision. Books with a clear audience sell better. Books with a clear focus sell better. Throw out everything that doesn’t speak to them.
Add Professional Polish
No matter what we’re told, all books are judged by their covers. Print book, ebook—it doesn’t matter—a clear, well-designed cover is key. It needs to be clearly readable, even scaled down to the smallest online icon. It needs to look good in both color and black-and-white, and it needs to speak to your contents. To stand out in its genre, it even needs to be an innovative interpretation of that genre’s norm. You’re trying to get your book to pop off whatever page has it listed. Beyond cover design, you also need proofreading and editing. Only fresh eyes can see all the errors and fill in any gaps between what you intended and what the reader actually experiences.
Build a Following
Just because you’ve written a book doesn’t mean anyone knows to read it. If you’ve got something you know people will love, you have to get it in front of them. This means finding where your fan base hangs out—what they read, which blogs they follow, what events they attend, who they are on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. This is about engagement and promotion. Tweet and re-tweet. Comment on the blogs your audience reads. Email the hosts of those sites with an offer to guest-post. Interview one of those authors on your own blog and introduce yourself to the people you want to become your readers. Teach local classes on your subject. Find a place to do in-person readings.
Be genuine. Be persistent. Do this again and again over time to build a connection with a readership outside the network of friends and family.
Grow Your Arsenal
There are tools of the self-publishing trade. While nothing works like a secret weapon, there are things insiders use to effectively generate and maintain buzz. You can use them to market and promote your book, too.
1. A solid pitch: know how to describe what your book is about and why people should read it in 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes. What sets your book apart from the rest?
2. Author Bio: you need a short one for social media, a medium one for blog posts and programs, and a long one with all your credentials and previous work. This is like your reader resume. You want to showcase your strength and expertise, while still being a real person.
3. Author Photo: professional looking photos help establish professional credibility. Be alone in the shot. Your priority for this is clarity, not personality. Save the personality for social media.
4. A mailing list: collect email addresses like they’re twenty-dollar bills. Collect them, save them, keep track of them. You’ll use this to announce readings, new content, blog posts, and ultimately, when your book is available for sale.
Get Your Book Reviewed
This sets you up for discovery. Make your book available for free for a limited time so people will read it and comment. The key is to get the attention of Amazon’s algorithm by being picked up in “also purchased” or “also viewed”. Send it to known experts in the field. People are more willing to spend time on a new book or author when someone they already trust gives it a thumbs-up. Swap books with another author and post reviews on your blogs. Do whatever it takes to establish your book in the market, even if it means giving it away for a while, first. This is part of the long game for success.
Check out this post for more tips on getting and making the most of professional book reviews.
Be Consistent, Be Steady
Self-publishing success doesn’t come overnight. There’s no single trick that will make your book go “viral”. Success comes from making a lot of small, focused marketing efforts over time. Create a schedule you can commit to, whether it’s 5 hours a week on social media, or 20 hours a week with readings and events. It needs to be something you can sustain for 6 months to a year. There’s no universal formula for generating book sales, but nothing works without steady diligence.
Have you tried to sell your book online? Have you had success building your following? Share your tips in the comments below.