I don’t have any specific figures to show you but my guess is that less than 1% of readers are actively searching for new books.
The sad state of author earnings suggests that readers stick to authors they already know and trust. Which explains that the tactics for selling books I see from most authors on Twitter and Facebook are never going to sell a single book.
Blogs that review new books have already cornered (and saturated) the market for readers in search of new books. This is why book review blogs are doing a roaring trade and you can’t shift more than a few copies.
If you want your book to sell then you will have to do something different. You need to build a platform.
Your platform is the people that listen to you
Many people – not just authors – mistakenly think that their platform is a blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook page. The truth is, your platform may use these things but it is made up of the people who listen to you. Your platform is the people who are pleased to hear from you.
The only way to cause people to be pleased to pay attention to you is to make doing so worth their while. Be interesting or informative but be a pleasure to hear from. Have something worthwhile to say. Make life better for the person that listens to you.
Building trust sells books
By building trust ahead of time, you will sell books. Readers purchase from the same authors because they trust them. Without an established readership, you don’t have the established trust of readers. Therefore if you want your new book to sell, you will have to build trust another way.
The wrong way to sell your book
Use headlines that say things like this:
- I’m writing my book!
- This is my book, have you read it yet!
- I still want you to read my book!
- Please read my book!
- Why have you not read my book, yet?
- Ohh, look one person (other than my mum) has my book!
- Please, please, please think about reading my book.
- My book! My book! Read my book!
- Book! Book! BOOOOOOOK!
This is almost certainly doomed to fail. It will make you look desperate but it will always fail because it does not address the simple question of why a person should care enough about your book.
The right way to sell your new book
If you know your craft as a writer then the chances are that you spent a lot of time on the opening paragraphs of chapter one. Maybe as much time as the rest of the novel. You did this because you know you need to get a reader hooked on the story as soon as possible.
Before you could get the reader to pay attention to the plot you needed them to care about the protagonist. There is a similar process that goes for a new book too. Before I can get you to pay attention to the protagonist I need to get you attached to the idea of the protagonist’s story.
I’m going to break down how you go about doing this. What we are aiming to do is create the right environment for idea diffusion. Diffusion sells books.
Identify themes and real-world settings
By the time you are ready to sell your book, you should have a clear idea of what the themes of your book are. If not, stop and figure that out right away.
The themes are the heart and soul of a narrative. Themes are parallels with a reality that readers can emotionally connect to. The lightsabers and starship fights in Star Wars are cool but it is the themes of discovering one’s inner potential – the growth of the protagonist – that forms the themes people relate to.
In addition to the themes of your story – are real-world settings. Even Star Wars has them. No really. Entire documentaries have been made on the fighter plan dogfights that inspired some of the battles in Star Wars. Geeky podcasters spend a lot of time debating and exploring that real-world connection.
What this list gives you is an idea of who your best readers might be. People who connect with or have an interest in these topics are your starting point. This is why you have also just created a list of blog post ideas and topics.
Connect with communities
Communities allow you to connect with people who are really facing the sorts of issues your book will explore. This goes for factual as well as fiction books. I wrote for Thanet Creative about how doing this propelled Andy Weir to success. Weir not only connected with real-world scientists, he collaborated with them to keep the technical details of his story accurate. By the time Weir’s book was released his community rushed to buy his book.
If you take the time to become valuable to your community, you will have established a willing source of beta readers, technical editors, and possible early purchasers. You won’t need to beg people to buy your book as you community will already be celebrating it.
One of the reasons readers stick with authors they know is trust. They trust known authors to provide new books they will enjoy. Yet very few authors use the social media part of their platform to demonstrate insight into the issues their themes raise. As a result, readers have little reason to trust them to handle those themes in book form.
You don’t have to exclusively speak to the issues yourself. If blogs you follow publish something your readers might enjoy, relate to, or be inspired by, then share that too.
In short, be a thought leader for the issues that your themes address. Then when you have a new book, people will already have the necessary trust in you to go ahead and purchase it.
Lay the right foundation
These steps could be summarised as laying the right foundation for selling books. Rather than smacking people in their face with pictures of your book and links to Amazon, gently show them you are worth giving attention to.
You know you were interested and informed enough to write a book. Now show that to the world. If you do it right, your new book will sell itself.