Selling books is hard these days. The stats tell us that the average self-published author will sell fewer than 250 books. The average published author will sell fewer than 2,000 books. Books are now more cost-effective and easier to access, which has created a wealth of competition. Estimates tell us that one million books are published every year.
Entrepreneurs understand the value of publishing their knowledge in a book. A book is a great way to establish authority and build your brand. However, you have to sell books to accomplish these goals.
Gaming the system.
There are a lot of ways to game the system and make a bestsellers list, which helps your book get exposure. There are companies you can hire that guarantee placement on a bestsellers list, but they cost an arm and a leg. You can pick low-competition categories in Amazon and sell as few as ten books (in a particular period) and become a "#1 Amazon best-selling" author. Authors even make their book free through Amazon's KDP Select program and claim "bestseller" status.
The latest tactic is the "free book" giveaway. In this strategy, authors say their book is "free," but when you go to claim the book, you are told you have to pay for shipping and handling. A free book ends up costing you between $7 to $10. They use this strategy because when the books ship, they count as sales towards hitting the New York Times bestseller's list. It's another way to game the system, and many book buyers are frustrated with the lack of transparency. If you're charging for shipping and handling, don't claim to be giving away a free book.
How to sell books.
Selling your book, and selling it consistently, is not easy, but it's also not a mystery. Jared Easley and I had the chance to sit down with David Hancock, the CEO of Morgan James Publishing. We talked about how entrepreneurs can sell books. David describes Morgan James as "entrepreneurial publishing." You can listen to the interview here:
You can also listen in iTunes.
1. Have a professional cover. A book is judged by its cover, as David mentioned. With millions of books on Amazon, the way your book stands out is with an engaging cover.
2. Have a catchy title. The title of your book should be three to five words that catch people's attention right away. The subtitle should promise the reader what they'll understand if they read the book. Go beyond cliche's.
3. Have the book edited. As much as you'd like to think you can edit your book, you can't. You'll miss things because you're too close to it. Hire a professional. These first three points are vital to ongoing book sales. Bad editing, a wrong cover, or a weak title will keep booking buyers away from your book.
4. Market your book beyond social media. For years, social media has been the "unicorn" for entrepreneurs. We hear that it's the best way to market your book and other offerings. It's not. Social media is just one part of what should be a diverse marketing strategy. To reach your audience on social media, you'll have to pay for it. The organic reach of social media has been on the decline for years. Most authors don't have the money to invest in social media advertising.
5. Build your author platform. In the end, this is how you consistently sell books. The formula for consistent book sales is: as you grow your author platform, more people are exposed to what you do, if they like what they see, they buy your book. Your book is the first thing they buy because it's the lowest barrier of entry to do business with you.
How to grow.
There are a few ways to grow your audience and book sales. Mostly, you need exposure.
Be a guest on as many podcasts as possible. Podcasting is huge right now and a great way to get exposure to audiences all over the world.
Guest post on blogs. In 2012, guest posting on 50 different blogs, and being a guest on 80 different podcasts, translated into 45,000 books sales for me.
Write for large authority sites. Writing for large websites such as the Huffington Post and Entrepreneur has helped my book spike and sell consistently. Look to the left of this article, you can see a link to my book. The Huffington Post has an Amazon widget at the end of their articles. When someone likes what you're writing, it's one click, and they're buying your book.
If you are an entrepreneurial author, don't fall for the "get-rich-quick" strategies too many Internet marketers are using. Gaming the system might work, but it won't translate into consistent book sales or a message being spread. Consumers are smart and won't fall for it. Focus on building your audience, and the sales will follow.