Book sales. A lot of authors live and die by these two words and yes, they’re important but when it comes to book marketing, they aren’t the only thing that matters. And while it’s not a bad thing to focus on book sales, it shouldn’t be your only measurement of success.
Book marketing and publicity is about relationships, creating them, building them, and fostering them. But it’s also about taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, or growing something into an opportunity to gain more exposure and sell more books.
Think of your campaign as building blocks or bricks. One thing builds on another and on another to create a campaign that isn’t just gaining you exposure, but book sales as well. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Will I sell more books if I’m on Radio or TV? How many?
Authors love media, often because there’s a correlation between media and big book sales. But is that accurate?
It’s hard to know what kind of book sales your media appearances will generate. I’ve known authors to go on major shows (such as Oprah) and sell less than 100 books from that appearance. Media opportunities are always this starry-eyed goal, because most authors assume that media = sales but this isn’t always true. Sometimes media = opportunity and in every case, media is a great way to build your resume. If this all sounds boring, stick with me, because we’ll get to how to sell more books in a minute. (Not sure if you’re ready for big media? I can help you!)
On any given day, and during any campaign an author may run, book sales depend on a great many things. Not the least of which is:
- A great book cover
- A great book
- Your message (what you say during the interview, blogger interview or TV appearance)
- How easily can readers get your book (spoiler alert: it doesn’t have to be in bookstores!)
So with this in mind, selling books is about more than media, although media can be a good strategy. Solid book marketing and publicity may lead to media, which in turn can create more opportunities and lend you credibility for future efforts.
So, What’s the Secret to Book Sales?
For a book to sell well, it needs to be seen multiple times by your audience. So, one interview on NPR may get your sales rank on Amazon kicking up, but it won’t stay there. However, that interview can present some other, great opportunities if you’re willing to dig deeper.
I’d never discourage an author from seeking media, but make sure you’re looking at media for the right reasons – and sales shouldn’t be one of them. So what should it be: opportunity. Maybe the opportunity to be a return guest, to do more with the show or publication, or maybe it’s just the opportunity a media interview presents to go after larger media.
The more you can do, in a focused way, for your book, the better it will do overall. Let me explain that. So let’s say you’re doing a lot of local media and feel like you’re ready for the big time. Your book sales may be good, but you feel they could be better. Certainly, the exposure couldn’t hurt. If you’ve done a lot of regional media, it’s likely that you’re ready to go into the national markets. Media loves media so the more media you do, the more you’ll get. Remember: building blocks.
Or, let’s leave media for a minute and go to something else like speaking. What if you have big dreams of being on stage, giving a well-paid keynote speech or just getting on the speaking circuit. If you have no experience in speaking, maybe starting in your hometown is a solid plan, to get your feet wet, hone your skills, and in the process, build your mailing list.
Good marketing and publicity campaigns aren’t about just one thing. They are also about seeking opportunity and building on what’s presented. Sometimes it means creating your own opportunities.
And it’s also about saying yes more often than you say no.
While it’s fine to turn down things that aren’t right for you, you should never turn down something just because you feel it’s “too small.” You never know where an opportunity like that could lead you. And it might just help you sell more books. Or even lead to something bigger!
Finding the Right Exposure for your Book
The best campaigns are the right ones for your book. Maybe this sounds like a no-brainer. But I can’t tell you how many times I talk to authors who do stuff “because they think it’s the right thing to do.” They don’t always think about whether it’s right for their book and audience. And if you’re not doing the right things, you won’t sell more books. You might see a small bump in sales, but it won’t move the needle far.
A good example of this is fiction, in particular genre fiction. I love marketing genre fiction but I will rarely ever promise and author big, national media for this. I find that most authors get that. Unless you’re already a big household name, national media is probably a wasted effort for you. Why not spend your time elsewhere?
In almost every case, reader connections are key to selling more books and, in particular this is true for genre fiction. So instead of building your campaign on a set of unrealistic goals, spend your time on marketing efforts that will actually reach your reader: reviews on Amazon, blogger reviews, eBook promos, Goodreads giveaways, etc. You get the idea.
Now where’s the opportunity, you say? Well, as you build relationships with readers and bloggers, you are also building opportunity. You’re building a chance for a future feature, review or maybe a guest blog post.
So finding the right exposure is key. Then building on that exposure to create relationships will help you sell more books.
Every Opportunity Builds on Every Opportunity
Every single thing you do, every “win” you get should be viewed as an opportunity. And in some cases, that opportunity may be to just foster a relationship with a blogger. Whatever it is, finding the opportunity in each of your marketing and publicity strategies will help you keep building towards better book sales.
We had an author once who hated the Internet. He was older and refused to do a website, social media, any of it. I finally talked him into the website and encouraged him to start blogging. His blogs were thoughtful, interesting, and insightful. He was clearly out to help his reader.
When Entrepreneur Magazine asked to interview him, he took it a step further with them and asked if they ever considered letting non-magazine staff blog on their site. As it turns out they did. He started blogging for them, which was a phenomenal opportunity that came out of one, simple interview. It’s also interesting to note that the interview in and of itself didn’t net a lot of book sales, but his ongoing exposure with them did, ultimately, sell more books.
Putting it all Together
What happens when you view your book marketing and publicity as opportunity is that it doesn’t just create one impression, but multiple opportunities for exposure. And, remember what I said earlier? Exposure is key to book sales.
Now, this won’t happen every single time. I mean not every media interview or blogger review will turn into multiple features. But maybe there’s something else that came come out of it. As I said: media draws media and the same goes for bloggers.
Each and every opportunity is a chance to build into something bigger. And each opportunity should be grabbed, appreciated, and responded to. You never know what additional doors will open as a result.
And, you need to remember that in the end, publishing is a business. Writing books is a business. Every chance you get to expand your reach, to grow your visibility, will aid in your growth and efforts to sell more books.
I had an author tell me once that her secret to success was responding to every single reader email she got. Even ones that weren’t the most favorable about her book. And as a genre fiction author, this makes sense. Because that reader connection is vital. But moreover, it was the opportunity she created, each time she took five minutes to write back a reader, thank them for writing and asking if she could add them to her mailing list. She laid the foundation for her success and her book sales.
Your own success as an author will come from a variety of different marketing and publicity strategies for exposure. Just remember to really work each exposure you get. It will make a difference and help you sell more books!