When it comes to how to sell books, there’s a lot of information out there. Especially information on book marketing for self-published authors. Some of it is great – but some of it isn’t. I thought it might be time to address some of the things I hear a lot, and give you the real skinny on what works, and what doesn’t when it comes to promoting your book!
How to Sell Books to Your Friends and Family (Who Will Buy Lots of Copies of Your Book!)
I lead with this because it’s something that I hear a lot: I have a bunch of people I know who will buy my book. Maybe it’s a mailing list, maybe it’s your neighbors, or in some cases, it might be family. What’s interesting is that this often doesn’t happen – or the numbers are far smaller than you’d expect.
So why is that? Well it’s not because family and friends don’t want to support you, but people get busy, or they forget. Or maybe it’s not the kind of book they’d read. If you’re relying on a mailing list to spur on sales that’s great, but an active buying mailing list takes work to develop. You can’t just expect to drop your book link into a newsletter and sell lots of books. This really takes some strategic planning, maybe a special limited-time offer if they get your book on launch day, that kind of thing.
The point being, don’t lead off your book marketing campaign depending on these sales to nudge you up the bestseller list because you might be disappointed!
Just Copy Other Successful Authors to Be Successful!
Book marketing for self-published authors (or traditionally published authors!), can seem daunting. And I’ll be honest, I’m a little torn on this because success does leave clues. So while I’m a fan of modeling (to a certain extent) what another successful author has done for their book, it’s also important to make it your own.
Also, marketing strategies are genre-specific. What I’d do for a business book is vastly different from what I’d do with a crime noir thriller. So while learning from other, successful authors is important, you also have to put your stamp on it and make it your own.
You Should Pursue a Traditional Publisher so They’ll Do All of Your Book Marketing
This might be my all-time favorite myth actually. And nothing could be further from the truth. I mean no disrespect to traditional publishing, at all, but they release a lot of titles each season and their publicist is pretty busy. And yes, I said publicist – singular. In some cases, it’s one publicist person managing as many as 75 titles. So don’t get caught in the: “I’ll wait to get a publisher because I don’t want to do my own book marketing.” – trap. No matter how you publish, you should always be engaged in your own success.
Don’t Share Your Story Ideas or Someone Will Steal Them
Most people don’t have time to steal your story. If someone asks me to sign an NDA before I read their book I will, but literally, I have no inclination or time to steal a book idea. In my 20+ years in business, I’ve yet to hear from an author that they had their book idea stolen.
The problem that happens is authors find themselves stuck between sharing their book topic and keeping mum. If you’re getting close to your campaign date, the book is almost ready to come out, share it far and wide.
Posting About Your Book on Social Media Is an Effective Way to Market Your Book
I wish this was true, it would make figuring out how to sell books so much easier. Social media is a branding tool, it helps to create more impressions with your potential buyer. But it does not always make them buy. Engaging readers in a thoughtful, interesting, or helpful way is a good way to build their interest because that’s where it starts. If they aren’t interested in you or your topic, they aren’t going to be interested in your book.
Being on social media is great and helpful when it comes time for book marketing for self-published authors, but that doesn’t mean you have to be on every social media channel. Don’t be everywhere, just everywhere that matters, and then spend the time engaging with your reader.
The same is true for running ads. I spoke with an author who wanted to run a Facebook ad (boosting a post) to get more interest for the stuff she was putting up there. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se, but be clear on your goals before you start investing in ads because an ad just to run an ad, or get more likes – won’t necessarily sell your book. It just adds to your post likes, and if that’s your end goal that’s great. But ads don’t usually push book sales unless you have a great offer, like a limited-time discount or a gift with purchase.
Author Websites Don’t Matter
A lot of authors just want to live on Facebook. They’ll tell me “that’s all I need for a website, right?” Well, not exactly. Facebook can be a great tool, but you should always have a place for your readers to visit you – and that place is your website.
And even though most of us never get our social media accounts pulled, it should always be a consideration. Meaning that while you want to invest your time in a social media platform, you don’t want that to be the only way readers can find you online. Because if it vanishes, there goes your online presence. Always have a website, even if it’s a really basic three-page site.
Blogging Is Dead
With the popularity of video and now audio (think: Clubhouse and podcasting), it would be easy to think that blogging is just a thing of the past. And while blogging has been around a lot longer than podcasting has, and certainly even longer than YouTube, it’s still a great tool. Not just to talk to your (potential) readers, but also to help optimize your website for online visibility and traffic.
This doesn’t mean you have to be blogging daily. We post a couple of blogs a week, but many well-known SEO (search engine optimization) experts say that if you write thoughtful, long-form posts, once a month can greatly help your online exposure. And this can be an invaluable tool when it comes to book marketing for self-published authors.
Book Awards Boost Book Sales
First off, I adore book awards. I’ve judged a few and love it. So don’t misunderstand, I really love book awards but in and of themselves, they aren’t sales generators. Let me explain.
When you win an award, or a notable mention, it’s great. But so often authors don’t go beyond that. Meaning they don’t announce it to their mailing list or add it to their websites or Amazon book pages. They don’t share it on social media. That’s like having an influencer email you a great review of your book and you doing nothing with it. Book awards are tremendous but if you’re going to take the time to enter be sure that you also have time to do something with the award or honorable mention you get.
Book Blog Tours Sell Books
There’s no one thing that sells books, unfortunately. Life would be so much easier if that was true. Blog tours are great for exposure to the right markets, but in and of themselves they don’t sell books. Why? Because you need multiple impressions to sell books. So as one of your many strategies, it can be great (if the right blogs are being pitched), but as a singular piece, it may not have the kind of impact you’d expect.
In general, book marketing pieces should never be done in a vacuum. Pair a blog tour with another great strategy, like some Goodreads promotion, pitching Amazon reviewers, or polishing your media pitches for more exposure.
A Book Trailer Will Help Me Sell More Books
Book trailers can be awesome, visual additions to your marketing campaign, but much like blog tours it rarely happens that they move the needle. They can, however, entice readers enough to get them to want to know more – and that’s kind of the point of any of your marketing, really. At a minimum, that should be the goal.
The issue with the majority of book trailers is they are too long, or too convoluted to capture (and keep) the attention of the reader. If you look at trailers for upcoming shows, most of us know – in the first ten seconds, if that’s a show we’re going to watch. Book trailers that take too long to get to the point, or don’t lead with a bang, or some issue that’s being dealt with, or the reader benefit, won’t do much for your book sales.
Wait Until the Book Is Published to Start Marketing
If you want to know how to sell books, this is not it. I have no words for how problematic this one is. Sadly, it’s often easy to subscribe to this. Authors get busy and there’s so much to consider, the process of preparing for your marketing can also be confusing. So they wait, and wait, and wait and before you know it, your book is six months old.
Sometimes it happens that stuff gets in the way. A lot of authors found that during the pandemic, they lost a lot of traction when it came to book marketing. Does that mean you should give up? Absolutely not, but your marketing will look different as your book ages. The older your book gets, the harder it will be to market for sure – hard, but not at all impossible.
Still, if you can avoid this marketing delay you’ll be in much better shape. Even a 90-day ramp-up is great, and sometimes that’s really all we have. Longer lead-ups get complicated. How much should you share about your book if it’s not even up for pre-order yet? Which is a great question to ask. So find something that’s a happy medium. If you don’t have a big following, if it’s your first book – you don’t need a huge early marketing window to reap your book marketing rewards!
Book marketing myths aren’t always myths, per se. Sometimes they’re just misunderstood concepts and ideas. Don’t let them sink your book or tank your momentum. I’ve known authors to sink 20,000 dollars into a book trailer that got them barely a whisper in book sales. When it comes to book marketing for self-published authors, making smart choices is one of the most important decisions you’ll make!