Honestly, I don’t get asked about how to publish a book that will sell nearly often enough. Which might come as a shock considering the industry I’m in.
Too many authors today still assume we’re working in a field of dreams, where if you publish a book, the readers will come. Perhaps that works for some. But I’m going to assume most of my seasoned fellow authors have come to the conclusion that that is not at all how it works.
When to begin the book marketing journey
Taking a cue from the sentence structure, figuring out how to publish a book that will sell starts before the book is published.
Yes, I help a lot of authors with books that are already available for retail purchase because book marketing doesn’t stop when the book is available on Amazon. So, there’s a place for post-publication book promotion (a huge one) but authors need to place more value on what they do before the book is in hands.
A big dose of reality from a literary agent
A recent piece by the fantastic @janefriedman covered an interview she did with a literary agent about the changing landscape of fiction. Yes, the piece focused on the process for authors who want a publisher, but these tips are just as relevant to indie authors as well so pay attention.
Aside from a synopsis, any author looking to publish a book is will have to provide a list of five comparable titles from the past five years. In addition, they’ll have a short marketing plan, a description of the next work in progress, and a list of alternate titles for the work being submitted.
What does this mean for you?
What’s the point of all the homework? No, literary agents aren’t lazy by nature, but with over 4,500 books published every day they want to know an author is serious about becoming a success. And simply writing the book doesn’t cut it anymore. Indie authors need to hold themselves to the same standards.
I ask authors that come to us to provide a synopsis. And honestly, I will tell you that we judge them based on their ability to communicate about their book. From that moment I start assessing whether or not they have what it takes to succeed in this industry. Additionally, whether or not it makes sense for us to encourage them to invest in professional marketing support.
If you can’t convince someone to buy your book, how do you expect to succeed on Amazon when you don’t have a captive audience?
Understanding your buyers and competition
Next up, if you’re figuring out how to publish a book that will sell, you need to understand your market. You need to understand what your buyers and readers want. And a great way to do this is by tracking what successful authors that have come before you are doing.
When you’re considering comparable titles this isn’t a time to fan girl over your favorite authors. This isn’t a dream board. The point of this exercise is to prove there’s a need and a desire for the type of books you plan to bring to market.
Because while many of us want to be recognized for our creative genius, if it was any other product we wouldn’t get a loan for something that wasn’t a sure thing. When you publish a book to sell, it shouldn’t be any different.
The dreaded book marketing plan
The next step is the marketing plan, which I realize makes most authors cringe. But if you’re looking to publish a book that will actually sell, a plan is kind of necessary.
And while book marketing plans for agents may have specific requirements, if you plan to self publish the structure is less important than the intention.
Basically what you want to do is lay out a map of marketing strategies that you can execute. This includes everything from your website activities to blogging. From social media activities to follower growth efforts, discount price promotions. And everything in between: giveaways, your Amazon and Goodreads presence, your plans for generating reviews, lots and lots of reviews, and the list goes on. I’ve written a number of posts on essential book marketing strategies so make it easy on yourself and start there.
Publish a book with other books in the funnel
Next is the works in progress. If you want to publish a book that sells you should realize this includes the books that come after as well. Nothing sells books better than more books. Period.
Readers see you as an investment of their time and energy, and you’re much more likely to convince them you’re a good bet if you can already speak to the next book that’s coming out.
I hear too many authors say, “I just want to see how this book does before I do another one.” And that’s not the attitude of an author who’s in it for the long haul. An agent will smell that coming from a mile away, and don’t think your readers won’t. This is circles back to your marketing plan. Ensuring you have a plan of action, shows that you’re serious on multiple levels, not just to publish a book. It demonstrates that you have the skills to turn yourself into a brand readers – buyers – can get behind.
Opening doors to more sales
The list of alternate titles is another great activity even if you don’t plan to submit to an agent. What this does is stretch your imagination, and opens doors to alternatives that may fit the market needs better. You probably had a title in mind before you even started writing, but as authors we need to realize how much changes between the start, and when it comes time to publish a book.
I also suggest brainstorming subtitles. I wrote a piece on this because it’s become a really strong strategy for Amazon optimization. A well-designed subtitle is another sales opportunity. It’s another chance to speak to your genre and to work in your keywords.
Why putting in the work matters
It might seem overwhelming, but take this advice to heart when you’re planning out how to publish a book that will sell.
I work with dozens of authors a month who are playing catch up with their book marketing. And while it’s far from impossible, it’s not ideal.
Running out of the gate with an expert understanding of what tools you need to publish a book that sells will propel your career forward. Use language that sells, research your competition, and find out what your readers are looking for. Compiling these pieces will ensure your book is never being ignored and always being marketed. That’s the dream, isn’t it? To let book marketing work for you.
Make it your dream and I promise you’ll be selling more books than the competition.