Writing your book is the easy bit – the really hard work comes after publication. And boy is it hard work! If you think that having written your book and having actual printed pages in your possession is sufficient, then you are heading for disappointment.
Most self published books never sell more than a few hundred copies at best. Why? Simple. Nobody knows about them.
Here are a few ideas to help you promote and hopefully generate sales of your book.
1. Don’t leave it too late – if you leave the marketing and promotion of your book until the day it’s delivered from the printers, you’ve already missed out on a massive marketing opportunity. Start marketing it on social media as soon as you begin writing: I built up a following for both the book and my writing on Twitter and Facebook, taking followers with me on my writing journey. When it came to publication, I already had a long list of orders from people eager to read the finished product.
2. Organise a book launch & invite EVERBODY you know. Think carefully about the timing and venue – I had mine in my local pub on a Saturday night and the whole village turned out. I also sold 80 books in about 2 hours. The location and “feel” of your book launch will of course be determined by the nature of the book. You don’t need to spend a fortune. I spent next to nothing.
3. Contact local bookshops including local branches of chains like Waterstones. They tend to buy books in at a local level. Ring them up, ask if you can see the manager, pop along with a copy of your book and details of where they can order. They’ll only take a couple of copies at a time but it’s a start. That’s how I got my book into North East branches of Waterstones, and now they have a regular order. They also sell it on their website.
4. Make the Amazon decision. Are you going to sell via them or not ? Unless you sell thousands, it’s not going to make you rich but it can be good exposure. For example, my book has been number 1 bestseller in its category several times. Am I rich? No. For every book Amazon sells ( Cover price £8.99) I get around £2.40. For an ebook retailing at £3.99 I get about £2. A large proportion of people buy their books there these days, and good reviews left by happy readers can be very helpful. They have various packages available. The same applies to Goodreads and NetGalley. You can pay to be listed and reviewed on their sites but it’s not cheap. You’re probably looking at around £200 or so. Is it worth it? I didn’t bother with either.
5. Organise book signings. Think outside the box. Who might be interested in selling your book? Think local. Gift shops or galleries are great, as are small local museums. Cafes are great for this, plus they’ll be delighted with the extra custom. The key to success is making sure your event is well publicised beforehand.
6. Give talks about your book. What’s the subject? Who might be interested? Contact local history societies, clubs, schools and colleges, Rotary groups, U3A and book groups – they’re always wanting speakers. Always check to make sure they don’t mind you bringing along a few copies of your book to sell after your talk . It’s also a good idea to register with Speaker.net.
7. Think of your book (and indeed yourself) as a brand. Set up Instagram, FaceBook and Twitter accounts for your book, in addition to your own personal accounts . Don’t just post links to where people can buy the book – people will get bored of that very quickly . You need to interact with others, post interesting content and photos, and draw people in.
8. Contact local radio stations – they’re always wanting to interview people. See if there are any podcasts which deal specifically with the issues or topics raised in your book, and offer to contribute.
9. Approach local media. Be realistic. The Times or The Guardian are not going to review and/or promote your book. They get hundreds of approaches each day. Your local paper is much more likely to be interested in doing an article. The same applies for glossy local “lifestyle” magazines. Be wary of anywhere that offers to run a feature on the book for payment. That’s not journalism, it’s advertising.
10. Consider a Facebook ad campaign. Because of the subject matter of my book, I did an ad campaign targeting Australian readers and focussing on the ebook, which proved very successful. It cost me around £40 for a months worth of advertising which was seen by around 8000 people, and sold me lots of ebooks.
11. You need a proper website. Use it to showcase your writing as well as to promote your book. I’m a tech Luddite and even I managed to set myself up a lovely website using wordpress and incorporating an online store so that people anywhere in the world could buy the book. I used Ecwid. It was so easy! The basic store is free (they take a tiny percentage of each sale) Here’s my site so you can see what I mean www.justcuriousjane.com
12. You need to educate yourself on the workings of the book trade, and how books and libraries obtain their books. They ain’t going to come knocking on your door. You need to find a distributor if you’re planning on selling more than a few hundred copies to friends and relations. Consider using a company like Matador. You can pick and choose which of their services you want. You can read more about this in my previous article https://www.justcuriousjane.com/writing-and-publishing-your-first-book/
13. KEEP AT IT. To sell your self-published book, you need to be constantly thinking of new approaches and building your brand. Learn to make yourself valuable – eventually people will begin to seek you out for interviews, feedback, articles and talks. You are going to have to give a huge amount of your time freely at first – be prepared for that. Eventually if you put the groundwork in, it begins to pay off, in terms of book sales. It is hard work, be in no doubt. You also need to be realistic. How many have I sold? About 1200, in 8 months. I’m more than happy with that. Everything’s coming up roses, and I’m writing my second book.
If you’d like a chat or any further advice, please do get in touch via here or the contact page on my website www.justcuriousjane.com
I’ve written a much-expanded version of this article and its predecessor, Writing, Publishing and Selling your First Book, which is now available as a downloadable e-guide, exclusively on Amazon Kindle. You can get it here.
MY BOOKS (NON-FICTION / HISTORY)
Above Us The Stars: 10 Squadron Bomber Command – The Wireless Operator’s Story ( publication date Summer 2020 – now available to pre-order)