Authors are as diverse of a group as you’ll find in almost any profession. Besides the normal gender, religious, ethnic and racial differences typically found in most groups, there’s also a wide range of writing styles and genre preferences. But the one thing we all have in common is the desire to sell more books. It’s the Holy Grail. It may not be the only reason we chose to write a book, but now that we have, it sure would be nice to have our baby go viral and sell like pretzels at a beer festival.
So, how exactly do you go about selling more books? Glad you asked. We’ve got five suggestions and one big secret we’ll reveal at the end (No peeking).
Have a sale
It may sound simplistic but the obvious tactics are often the most effective for a reason. People like stuff on sale because they like to save money. It’s not complicated. If a reader comes across two books that interest them but only only one is on sale, all things being equal they will almost always choose the one on sale. For better or worse, the book market has steadily driven the price of ebooks down over the last several years to the point where $0.99 or even free ebooks are common. Dropping the price will almost certainly make your book more enticing to the substantial crowd of budget book buyers and believe us, it’s a humongous group.
“But what about all the money I’m losing by lowering the price?” Fair question and we have an answer for that. Too bad. Seriously, if you’re going to be short-sighted about this, you’re almost certain to fail. Having a sale may cost you a small amount per sale but probably not as much as you think, simply because many of those purchases wouldn’t have happened at all if you hadn’t lowered the price. In addition, the surge in book sales, even at a discounted price, will often help bump up the number of times your book is recommended which usually leads to even more sales. It’s an investment in a long-term strategy. Also, it’s only temporary.
Our resident author (who has held multiple sales for her books and enjoyed substantial spikes every time) insists that I point out a few details. If you’re on Kindle Unlimited, the good folks at Amazon will allow a single five-day sale every 90 days and will promote your book on their separate Kindle Unlimited deals page (pretty awesome, right?). If you’re not on KU, you have to price match. You can’t be cheaper on another vendor than you are on Amazon. The hassle factor definitely goes up a bit if you sell on multiple vendors and want to run a sale. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. You just have to be aware of the issues.
Hire a professional cover designer
Somewhere along the line, graphic designers developed a reputation—at least among some—for being too concerned about creating super cool, visually stunning designs that are aesthetically pleasing but don’t actually accomplish anything. While this may unfortunately be true for some designers, an experienced, professional designer understands that the whole point of any design is to achieve the goal(s) set out by the client. In the case of a book cover designer, there should only be one main goal: sell as many books as possible.
How do you design a book cover that sells? Well we’ve actually covered that topic in a few other blog posts here and here, so we won’t go into too much detail but the main takeaway is that you have to do your due diligence when searching for a designer and you can’t get caught in the trap of trying to communicate the entire story on the cover. It’s much more important to have a cover that will grab the attention of the target audience within your genre by making them stop long enough to read the blurb and click that all-important “buy” button.
Get more blogger reviews
Reviews are one of the most tried and true methods for selling more books. And while getting reviews on your Amazon book page can certainly help, the challenge can very much be a “chicken and egg” problem. You can’t get reviews if you don’t sell any books and you can’t sell many books without reviews. As you no doubt guessed by now, the answer is to get reviews from book bloggers.
The good news is that book blogger reviews have a ton of benefits. Bloggers often have large, loyal followings who trust their reviews much more than a random reader on Amazon. They can also help lend your book some legitimacy and give you extra opportunities to promote your book by sending out links to the review via social media.
The bad news is that book bloggers are flooded with book review requests from aspiring authors looking to get free publicity just like you. It can be difficult to break through but it can be done if you’re willing to commit a little time and energy. We’ve got a blog post on the subject and even published an entire book appropriately titled How to Get Bloggers to Review Your Self-Pub Book: An Insider’s Guide.
Write a series
Writing a series of books—as opposed to multiple standalone books—has numerous perks. Even when you release the first book, just announcing it’s the first in a series tends to attract prolific readers who often prefer to commit time to a lengthy, ongoing saga as opposed to individual tales.
Once you’re able to release subsequent titles in the series, you’ll have the ability to adjust pricing on each of the books by hooking readers into the series by reducing the price of the first book and setting higher prices for subsequent books.
Another option is release the entire series as a collection to allow readers to purchase the entire set of books all at once. Although the level of commitment and complexity necessary to write a series can be a huge challenge, the payoff can be substantial.
Cultivate a social media following
Social media can be tricky but it’s unquestionably one of the most important modern tools for building an author platform. But let’s be clear, social media should NOT be used to promote on a regular basis, especially when you’re first starting out.
The first step in developing a strong and loyal group of followers is to post interesting content on a regular basis. No one is going to follow you if you’re just posting a steady stream of “Buy my book” commercials. You have to give people a reason to follow you. Provide updates on your work, give insight into your writing process, comment on other books you’ve read, share something personal, link to other content you think your followers will find interesting but most of all, make it fun and engaging.
Once you’ve built a solid group of followers, it's perfectly acceptable to occasionally post information about such things as: short term sales, permanent price changes, cover reveals and new book launches. Again, it’s not a good idea to overdo it but a few tweets or posts can often be very helpful in boosting sales, especially if you can do it in a fun, provocative or memorable way.
The big secret
As we mentioned at the start of this post, we’re going to reveal the BIG secret that is the key to getting more sales and applies to every method covered in this post and many more.
Wanna know what it is?
Okay here goes…
Time and effort.
We know what you’re thinking. “That’s it? Seriously?”
Yeah, seriously. None of these tactics are get rich quick schemes. They’re all going to take patience and work. There are no shortcuts or magic bullets. Sorry to break the news but if that were the case, everyone would be doing it. Sure, there are a few big names out there who enjoyed immediate success but that's like hitting the literary lottery. It's fun to think about but you probably shouldn't plan on it.
No worries though. Since you’ve written a book (or maybe planning to write a book) you’re already pretty familiar with hard work and dedication. The process of getting sales is very similar. It won’t happen overnight but once you get on a roll, you’ll start to see a real difference in your sales numbers.