Thursday, January 24, 2019

Selling books

I've been needing to blog for a while, struggling with a topic.  This morning, it came to me, so bear with me while I slog through the miasma that is my brain and attempt to say something coherent.

I get questions all the time about how to sell books.  I'll get PM's on facebook, conversations at my local pub, or random tweets, asking me how I'm so successful, what part of me is a machine that allows me to make a living off my book sales.

It's not just one thing, and my definition of success is so different from these people that call me successful. If I were really successful, would I have this desperate NEEEEED to sell more books to pay for this car I just bought because my old one D-I-E-D? Maybe.  Maybe not.

I realized that it's not a selling books thing, it's a SALES thing.

To sell anything, from books to the latest herbal supplement, to makeup, to cars and houses, there is one common factor.


I'm not talking a physical hunger, a gnawing pain in your belly.  No.  It's a level of frantic desperation that equates itself to the buyer as a NEED from you to SELL them something.  It makes the buyer NEED to BUY from YOU.

In my business, it's a clear understanding of what I want from them: to buy MY books.  Not Jane Doe's.  Not that Jane Doe is a bad person, or a bad writer, but maybe Jane Doe hasn't done all the homework, she doesn't know exactly how many books she has to sell to feed her kids mac n cheese, how many more books she needs to sell to feed them a hamburger casserole, and how many MORE books she needs to sell to feed them crab legs on Fridays.

Maybe Jane doesn't know where to go to sell books?  Maybe she doesn't know the rule of three.  For every three people that you talk to about your book (or show your book in a newsfeed), ONE will think about buying it.  Now, you have to know your audience for this to work, because it doesn't work at all if you're selling romance books and talking to mystery readers. 

Maybe it's something else?  Maybe Jane just hasn't done any homework?  Maybe she doesn't have a newsletter list?  Or a website?  Or friends to bounce ideas off?  But I think Jane doesn't know her numbers.

Not only do I know this, I have strategies to sell this number of books every month.  These strategies vary from month to month.  If something isn't working for me to feed my kids crab legs, hopefully, I will catch it in time to change it before the month is over because it may not work at all next month.

I'm about to come up on my six year publishing anniversary.  In that six years, I've seen things work that no longer work for anyone (hello, G+?).  I'm constantly trying new things, though, so that when what's working now quits working, I have options.

Because I'm hungry.  No, I just had a protein shake, but there's a frantic feeling inside me to sell books.  In fact, I haven't written new words in MONTHS because I've been working on my marketing.  I have taken a marketing class through RWA, and am implementing those strategies to add to my arsenal.  I'm getting ready to publish a new book.  I'm MARKETING because I'm hungry.  I'm a writer, first and foremost.  But if I don't market these books to sell, there's absolutely no point in trying to make a living from selling.

Go take a class, make some new friends to talk marketing with (not just hey, retweet my stuff, although that's a part of it, but LISTEN to what they're doing, and figure out how to implement it.), don't be scared to try new things, and don't have a defeatist attitude, give some stuff away, do ALL the things, because eventually, something will work.  Be hungry.  Tell your readers to buy your stuff because Jane Doe doesn't know how hungry she is.  She's written the pretty words, and shoved her book in buyer's faces, but she's not intentional about it.

Be intentional.  If something isn't working (how many times really, can you retweet that tweet?) find something else.  Facebook ads, group takeovers on facebook, a bargainbooksy, spend some time on *gulp* goodreads or bookbub.  Explore, figure out what can do something for you.  Then spend some time doing it.  This is not a business where you can publish a book and expect your friends to buy it and then retire.  You have to work for it.

When I get the inevitable question, "How can I sell more books?"  I'll always ask, what they're currently doing to sell books.  They'll tell me Blog Tours or nothing, I don't know where to start.

It's daunting, yes.  But throwing your money at something that isn't working won't sell your books.  Do your research.  Figure out what others are doing (but don't just ask them to tell you their secrets, that's mean).  I once heard someone equate it to a cockpit, and each tool is a button on your dash.  Facebook ads.  Reader group parties.  Newsletter.  Others' newsletters.  Freebooksie or Bargainbooksie.  Bookbub.  These are all buttons.  The goal is to have as MANY buttons to push as possible.

Go forth.  Get hungry.  Find your buttons.

And if you want to join in my Facebook party for my six-year publiversary, feel free to join my reader group:

Much fun is to be had.  :)