The saying “If you build it, they will come” isn’t true for authors. Just because you write a book, doesn’t mean that people will buy it or read it. In this post, I share four things authors need to know (preferably before they ever publish their book).
4 Things You Need To Know
1. Who Your Target Audience Is
If you don’t have any idea who will read your book, that’s a problem. You won’t know who to market it to later on. Writing is a great form of therapy, but if you wrote your book solely for yourself, you probably aren’t ready to publish. If you dream of selling books, you need to picture who would buy them.
Who would benefit from reading your book?
Who would enjoy your book?
Who will you sell it to?
And just so you know, “everyone” is not the right answer — be specific. Narrowing down your target audience doesn’t mean that they are the only ones allowed to buy your books, it just means that they are the ones you are going to specifically market it to the majority of the time.
2. Quality Matters
It’s not just about the writing. You can self-publish a book in less than 24 hours after you write the last word with $0 upfront costs – but that’s probably not a good idea. Publishing good books take time and they often take some sort of financial investment.
Readers today are big on grammatical errors and typos. Do whatever it takes to get a second set of eyes on your book.
Poor formatting can make a book hard on the eyes, causing readers to close the covers long before they finish the book.
A bad cover design can turn readers away before they ever read a word.
Editing, formatting, book cover design, all of that is important.
3. You Need an Author Platform
Having an author platform is like having a home. You don’t want to be someone on the street corner trying to peddle your book. You will get much better results if you have a platform that belongs to you. A good platform starts with a website, e-mail list, and social media presence and then branches out from there.
You may have offline platform extensions through a group or program that you are part of – that’s great, but don’t neglect your online platform if you want to sell books beyond your local circle of influence. The bigger your platform, the bigger potential you will have for selling your book.
Can you sell your book without a website? Sure.
Do you absolutely have to have an e-mail list? No.
Will Amazon refuse your book if you aren’t on Twitter? Of course not.
However, if you don’t have those three things, the road ahead of you is long and hard. You will have to work 100 times harder than someone who does have those things in place if you want to reach any level of success. And all of the work you do will most likely be one-and-done. Meaning after a promotion is over, it will never result in any other sales for you. You will have no way to build a following, or for people to find you if they are looking.
If you want to successfully sell books in today’s day and age, you need an online author platform.
4. Having 1-3 In Place Is Not Enough
This is the kicker. Even with all of those things in place, you still aren’t guaranteed to sell your book. You have to have a marketing mindset.
How do I know?
When Shelley and I co-authored our first book, Teen Devotionals… for Girls! We had 1-3 firmly in place. However, it didn’t sell much over the first year. After that, we started making changes and started seeing results. It went from barely selling to becoming an internationally-bestselling and award-winning title. In fact, it is still one of my top-selling books.
So what changed?
We started actively marketing it. We went beyond the initial, “Hey it’s available,” to testing out new marketing strategies to see what worked and what didn’t.
We added links to the bottom or our e-mails about it. We made videos. We did quote photos. We did solo e-mails to our list, and guest blogs. Some things yielded results, others didn’t, but on a whole, it made a huge difference.
On the flip side of that…
I know authors who do nothing but promote their books and they still don’t sell.
What’s the difference?
You can’t tell people to buy your book, you have to convince them that they want to buy your book.
You can shout at them all day long, and you won’t see any results (unless you are counting the number of people running the other way).
Yes, exposure is important. However, everyone associates books to something. If someone sees your book 1,000 times, and you haven’t convinced them that it’s worth reading, they are going to associate it (and possibly you) with SPAM. That’s not the result you want. You want them to see your book and think, “That looks/sounds really good. I need to buy it!” And then make sure that you have the proper channels in place so that they can do so.
Prefer to listen?
Listen in as Ani Alexander and I talk about what to do with your writing in the Write 2B Read podcast here: www.anialexander.com/what-to-do-with-your-writing-w-heather-hart
How to Self-Publish with a Co-Author
The Power of a Book Marketing Plan
Nathan Johnson says
Thanks for these tips for publishing a successful book. I am working on my first book and I look forward to getting it published, but I also realize there is a lot that needs to be done before that. It makes sense that if you really want to sell your book, you have to do more than make it available; you have to really promote it. Thanks for the info!
Shelley Hitz says
Essay Typer says
Publishing is and always has been a very expensive proposition. The book industry is about to face what the music industry faced: the digitization of content. What it will come down to is finding way to reach the reader. My concern was this: will Amazon privilege it’s own published content more than that of other publishers on it’s searches? Well if it does, just shift over to Google books or the Apple store. Even Amazon’s monopoly is not ever going to be monolithic.
What this does do–is help authors and writers reach their own audience without being filtered by gatekeepers. Excellent editors will still be needed, but whether they stay in a publishing house, is another matter.
Shelley Hitz says
You’re welcome John!