A lot of people have the idea that when they publish a book they’re going to be rich. It’s a myth supported to some extent by the media and, certainly, there are examples of successful authors who are well-to-do based largely on the proceeds from their books and perhaps movie rights. That is an exceptional situation and it does not just happen as a result of publishing a book. For most successful authors there is a lot of hard work over years involved to gain a loyal following.
The sad truth is that most books will not be successful. And in many cases it doesn’t appear to matter how well the author writes. Some of the best written books I have ever read were the offerings of relatively obscure writers. If there is a simple formula for accomplishing success at the publishing game it’s telling a story well enough to entertain one reader at a time.
I could be wrong but I’m not sure a book can be written for the masses. Instead an author should have a target reader in mind whenever he or she is writing a book. If a story has natural appeal to a reader it will work out well for the author. Also the more hooks a book has that offer a way for the reader to get into the story the greater and more generalized the interest will be for the book.
Still, selling a book is mainly a one to one transaction. It has always been that way. It may take place at a public event between the author and a prospective reader. It could be a response to a social media posting the author makes that piques the potential reader’s interest. It might come as a result of a personal recommendation from a satisfied reader through a posted review or verbally expressed.
The point is that the best thing an author can do to sell his or her book is to address each reader individually and, if possible, personalize the pitch for the book. It is not easy. That’s part of the reason why there are millions of authors and only a small percentage of them are successful enough to earn some portion of their living from writing. But I’ve learned a few tips from reading about those who are successful.
Sell yourself as an author before you sell the book you wrote. First and foremost you must build your reputation as an author. In this way with each successive book release the author’s brand is reinforced and over time a following is established. Then it becomes easier to promote books through word-of-mouth. You can begin the process of selling yourself in advance of your first book’s publication. Create a groundswell of interest in your writing. You may do this through establishing your expertise in the subject area or the genre of fiction you have chosen for your writing.
Examples of what you can do through your personal blog are posting articles or reviews on books of your genre, exchanging personal interviews with other authors and promoting the work of others in your genre through your blog.
Make personal appearances even if they are not traditional author venues. Authors compete for the same space in bookstores, libraries and all the other expected places for book signings, readings or speeches. Go where the people are but think outside the box. What about scheduling an appearance at race track, a shopping mall, a grocery store, a home improvements center. Almost every weekend there are events in most major cities that an author might also appear. Attend conventions and fairs as a vendor and sell your books. Establish contact with local associations, clubs, literacy groups. Approach your local schools and colleges about your support for literacy – after all you write books and you want people to read them. Join groups that interest you. Build a support base as an author who is active in your local community.
Use your hobbies and other interests to gain attention. The media will help you sell books but only if it benefits them in some way. Sending out press releases about your book does not differentiate you much from the other million authors out there. Reporters are looking for an angle or an item of special interest to their readers, listeners or viewers. They want to know that makes you unique. What’s your personal story? Have you overcome some adversity or disability? If you are an expert in some field or an active proponent of some cause this can help define you as well and it will become a vehicle for pitching your book. Sell the expertise and your publication will be mentioned in support of your expertise.
Establish a street team to help sell your book. You need to get people talking about your book in advance of its release. Once it is released your efforts are far from over. People need to continue talking about your book. Enlisting the help of family and friends just to get started is fine but you must grow your support base organically from there. The most successful authors have loyal followers who eagerly anticipate the next book.
Initially an author grows the support base one person at a time and knows every member of the street team personally in some way, whether face to face, via email or social media. Over time the author acquires followers he or she may not know personally. A good sign that a fan base has evolved is when an author begins to receive unsolicited reviews from strangers. Another sign is when a reader spontaneously starts a fan club.
Create a way to interact regularly with your readers. Readers love making contact with authors. They also like to have the inside scoop on such things as when the next book is coming out, what it’s about, the inspiration for a book and even obscure facts about the author like favorite colors, biggest fears or interesting idiosyncrasies. Building rapport with readers firms a fan base.
Allow personal access at some level through a special email account you check periodically, membership on your blog, a social media page or account that you use specifically for reader connections. Send out special advance announcements and promotions to reward followers for their support. Make sure you maintain your connections, though. Otherwise something that was good for you can backfire making you appear aloof.
Be creative and be yourself. Be different in some way from other authors. After all, you are creative, right? Come up with contests. One author I know ran a special deal that rewarded the winner with having a character in the next book named after him or her. Another author posted excerpts from her novel in progress and entertained suggestions from readers on how to advance the plot or just make the story better.
Whenever you interact with your readers or potential readers be yourself. Reading is a somewhat intimate experience between two people through a medium they share. One person writes the story the other enjoys reading it. Anything phony is pretty easily identified.
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