Writing and publishing a book is an incredible achievement and then comes the daunting task of actually selling it to readers. The truth is, that part is really hard sometimes and finding ways to sell online and through social media really is a challenge.
Marketing is often dismissed by authors because they tend to think they are no good at it and that’s okay. For many years I thought I was terrible at cooking until I followed a coherent and simple recipe to realise with some practice and effort, cooking isn’t that hard. The same can be said about book marketing. With some perspective and a little consistency, selling books online is possible and even fun. I’m someone who regularly sells their books through social media and I’m going to share with you my lessons and observations that will hopefully help you.
We will look in detail at using social media as an author and selling books online while also analysing why some authors struggle.
Whether you are self or trad published, you’ll probably appreciate the work that goes into firstly putting a book together and then the wider journey of marketing. Authors are expected to do a lot of that work but there is a slight misconception or at least a lot of advice that is over simplified or out of date.
‘Write a book and share it to your social media audience – Instant Sales‘
This statement although paraphrased is probably why a lot of us fail or at least feel like selling books is a struggle. Oversimplified advice from 2009 is just a Google search away and social media tends to echo stuff like this. On Twitter, authors in their droves share their book links every day and then newer authors see that and do the same and so forth. The truth is, and I realised a while back is this:
Just because your book exists and is published doesn’t mean it will sell a single copy. Take that expectation away and your view on the whole deal will be a lot easier. I know you worked hard and I know you love that story which is okay because the first person who should appreciate a good book is you. But to me, most of the time, dropping that link on social media is in vain. Yes there will always be exceptions and there will even be some that live by dropping their links but from my experience, I sell my books with the link holstered most of the time. Dropping links can still be valid on occasion but it does tend to bury my engagement on twitter at least.
Analogy: Just because there is breathable air doesn’t mean your body will just absorb it. You need to work for it by using your lungs and wider circulatory system to deliver that breathable stuff around your body. I know lungs function mostly without us being conscious of them but you hopefully get my point. And so the same can be said about that book of yours. Social media is an opportunity to make readers firstly aware of you and then your work. I like to say social first and media second.
The Basics: You and Your Book
Social and media are two separate entities and so are the basics in book selling which are you and your book. Firstly when it comes to social media, conduct takes precedence over anything else. And by this I mean day to day behaviour and general presence. Attitude good or bad sticks out on the platforms and for Twitter where I spend most of the time, it is quite easy to read between the lines of someone’s profile and tweets to gauge their attitude. I often have authors interact with me who say they are struggling with sales and have tried ‘everything’ for me to see their recent interactions were arguments, heavy opinion and generally an attitude that doesn’t help their image. Or their recent activity is just book links over an extended period of time.
While it can be great to share and of course freedom of speech is something I support, social media tends to make you visible and that is both good and bad. Being an author in particular will put you in a glass house sometimes, especially if someone takes offence to what you have said. Now you are published it is time to really really think about what you say online.
Over the years I have conducted my own set of rules when it comes to being an author on social media. These include:
No real heavy opinion on anything that can lead to passionate discussion/arguments. My seat on the fence is comfortable;
Be approachable, supportive and mindful for others and mindful of what I am posting at all times;
Do my best to inspire, inform, entertain or give some level of value;
Be consistent – show up regularly.
If you follow most of these basics, you will eventually find followers which in turn may become readers. And the wonderful thing about social media is the quick results – when you post something you’ll pretty much know if it was good or bad by the end of a day if not sooner. Those with smaller followings may struggle with this to begin with so remember to use relevant hashtags to boost visibility. And because there are so many users on social media, there is always opportunity to reinvent yourself for newer people. This method is long term and takes time along with some patience. If you are looking to sell masses of books quickly then you are in the wrong place.
So if you conduct yourself in the ways stated above you are set for at least more positive social media interaction and visibility which go hand in hand and also contribute towards selling books eventually. The main problem we all have is spreading awareness to the masses that our books exist. We will look into the finer details of expanding visibility below but in order to sell your media or have a higher chance of it selling then it will need to have a decent anatomy.
The basic anatomy of a book is something I mention in my guide book Consistent Creative Content and if yours has it, then eventually it will sell. These are:
A stand out or unique title that fits the genre well;
A professional attractive cover;
An enticing blurb;
A reasonable price;
Editing/proofreading to the point that is reasonably practicable.
Some of the above can be outsourced for a reasonable price. I have always invested in a professional cover using the services of Design For Writers. They also offer book formatting and even website construction among other wonderful things. For some who might be on a tight budget you can find some wonderful creatives online who might even help you for free – my most recent release was proofread and beta read by some awesome connections I have made online and for free.
The Everyday Things
So you’ve got the basics and now it is time to face the daunting task that is marketing yourself and that book of yours. There are so many ways to get yourself noticed along with that book but I would suggest picking a handful of methods at a time and seeing what works. Over time you’ll find what suits you and this really is a voyage into the unknown for many.
When it comes to social media all you really have to do is stand out to get noticed. Getting noticed will result in visibility and visibility will equal sales or engagement .
Easier said than done right? But how?
I turn up on social media every day. I keep my visibility boosted by using Twitter and have built a following of over 20,000 by putting in the time. The majority of that following trust me and have got used to me being there all the time – I’m not addicted honest…
These Everyday things increase my visibility:
Timing – know and understand when the majority of your following is online – this is huge for visibility;
Visual content such as screenshots of recent reviews, excerpts, book banners and covers, paperback selfies or pictures, memes – variety is key here and don’t over share the same thing;
Well wishing/positivity – reaching out to your following and hoping they have a good day will bring you closer to your followers and increase engagement on your posts. This also proves that you are human and when everyone else is sharing book links a little variety of the pleasant kind can be nice;
Supporting others – being supportive of a fellow follower is a great way to earn trust, get some visibility for you and others while also building some trust. Plus for me it feels good helping others;
Reply back when you can – this became a revelation for me but if someone puts in the effort to comment on your post, do you best to think of a reply, even a simple ‘thank you’ will help boost both parties;
Sharing links in a tactical way – Instead of sharing a link on a post or tweet I either drop it in the comments/replies below or tell my audience that it can be found via my bio/profile – this is huge on Twitter especially;
Use relevant hashtags – there was once a time where I would always include hashtags on all of my posts and they help boost visibility. These include #writingcommunity #author #booktwitter #booktwt #writerscommunity
Book Selling Related Solutions
Having all of the above will eventually and most likely lead to sales but what about specifics? Here are some things you can try to help sales:
Run a price promotion – from a free promo to a price reduction they are usually effective with some advertising and the right terminology (today only);
Share a plethora of content about your book – from cover art and banners to the blurb and even the first page, this stuff makes for some great material to attract readers;
Write a stand alone book – marketing the 3rd or even 2nd book in a series is difficult and attracting new readers is a huge challenge. A stand alone story will eventually attract new readers. This also naturally leads into having more books available will increase the chances they sell.
The Longer Term
Time sits above everything and I firmly believe there are no real quick fixes to selling books on social media unless you have stacks of cash you are willing to throw at it and even then there is no guarantee. Over many years and books I have grown towards regular sales, reviews and social media followers by spending time doing the above. It isn’t easy and there are so many authors like you and me who want the same thing. Even that can help us because our togetherness sometimes makes us stronger.
Social media is an opportunity to succeed but requires work to figure it out. If you really want readers and success then you’ll find a way to get there. Find your crowd, earn their trust and stay visible – these things will eventually help you sell books. Of course there are always exceptions that are good and bad. Try and keep trying because eventually you will succeed. That’s all I have done and here I stand selling books on average every two to three days.
This post is long enough without really dipping into the physical selling side of being an author and I run the risk of repeating already published information which can be read on this site for free. Below you’ll find some links to guides that I have created through the many lessons I have learned over years. Thank you for reading!
The following guides will help with physical book selling:
Book Release and Pre Order Guide – got a release coming up, this is worth a look…
And these free to read guides will help with social media:
The Twitter Campfire Analogy – conversation turns that twitter machine into potential sales…
10 Ways to Sell a Book without Dropping the Link on Social Media – my most popular guide these days
And for those who want a more detailed view of my journey, this book lays out how I published 6 books in 5 years and how I use social media to sell them regularly. Available now in both paperback and digital.