Almost six years ago, I heard those words we who write yearn to hear; a publisher said yes. The next step, I assumed, would be to lean back and rest upon my lush, green laurels and watch my book fly off the selves. But I quickly learned, life is not a story I get to write and I don’t have any laurels. (The best I can manage is a little basil from my back porch). In reality, my book was one of 250,000 books published in the United States that year. It was one year newer than the 250,000 books published the year before and would soon be shadowed by next year’s crop of books and eager authors. So the question every new author must ask is: After the frenzy of purchases by friends and family, what makes someone want to put down hard earned cash to buy your book? These are my experiences in trying to answer that question.
Soon after my first book was published, Facebook contacted me with a proposition. They would advertise my book on Facebook to millions of members free of charge and only if someone was interested in my book and clicked on the cover would they charge a few cents to my pre-setup account. Great publicity, I thought. You can target people based on their likes. People who “liked” NCIS would see the cover of my crime lab mystery. The more refined I got, the higher the cost per click. I put together a very witty slogan and CLICK, CLICK, CLICK within a week I was twenty dollars poorer, my advertisement was popular but no books sold. Witty draws people in but not to buy books.
I changed the slogan to BUY THIS MYSTERY; fewer clicks but the same results. People are not on Facebook to buy books. Note to self: sell your book where people want to buy books.
My next marketing strategy was Goodreads.com Fantastic place; readers wanting to read books, authors with books to sell. I signed up to give my book away. The end result…. 2682 people signed up to try and win a copy, 248 people clicked that they would like to read my book, 5 people read it and gave me some nice reviews. Not a slam dunk in sales but affirming.
So, back to the question, what makes someone want to put down hard earned cash to buy your book? After being on local radio stations, several newspaper articles, talks at book clubs, book signings at bookstores, book signings at libraries (libraries did much better than stores), book fairs and book festivals – in the end, the one thing that reliably sells your book is you; a connection with you, a smile from you, a question to you or a talk by you.
At my first but book fair, I had a chair, a folding table and five books. Over time, I have added things to draw people to my booth; to make a connection. I can make enough through sales of the other products to pay for the festivals and have been to some of the biggest. Two excellent ones are the LA Times Festival of Books and Tucson’s Festival of Books.
Few of us have laurels, even fewer can sell a book on our name alone but all of us can say, in our own way, “Yo, I’ve got a book over here. Come look!”