6 Ways to Increase Book Sales (and Why They Work)

Hi Folks,

One of my StoneThread Publishing authors and I were discussing possibly giving away a “sampler” that contains, say, the first 20 pages or so of four different books. If I have 32 books, I’d create 8 samplers. The author originally was talking about creating printed samplers in POD. The discussion led from why I wouldn’t prepare printed samplers to what I could do and what the author could do. I decided it’s is an important enough topic that I wanted to share it in a blog post.

The thing is, if you give away free printed samples of you work, there is a relatively large overhead. (For example, even if you found someone who would do the print layout and cover free of charge, you’d have to buy the actual books to distribute). Secondly, of the printed sampers you purchase and give away, probably 99% of them will end up in the garbage, and probably a full two-thirds of those will end up in the garbage at the convention or conference or other venue where you handed them out. (And yes, the same thing happens with bookmarks and other printed items writers buy to use as giveaways.)

But the biggest problem with a printed sampler is this: even if the printed sampler does entice the reader to purchase the actual book, there is no way to insert a Buy Now link. The best you can do is add printed purchase links and hope the reader’s interest will not wane before he can get to a computer to order the book. And trust me, that’s a massive long shot. That’s why I won’t be creating printed samplers.

So how to entice more readers? Enter the ebook. If I do the same thing with an ebook sampler, I can add Buy Now at Amazon and Buy Now at Smashwords links in the middle and at the end of each book sample. So when the reader is most likely to be interested in buying, he’ll have a link right there. Desire meets opportunity, and a sale is made.

The writer also mentioned brainstorming new ways to sell books. I’m relatively new at publishing, but I’ve been writing and selling books, successfully, for a long time. I promise—one of the absolute best things you can do as an author to promote your books is TALK.

  • Schedule talks and/or presentations at local and regional writers’ groups and professional groups.
    • Consider, you’re a successful author, possibly an expert in your field, some of you are prolific, and a few are multi-genre authors. All of those things will recommend you to different audiences and venues.
    • At writers’ groups, address some aspect of how to write your particular genre.
    • At professional groups, address your field of expertise, of course tied in with your book(s).
  • Contact the Literature department of your alma mater and see whether they need speakers. (If they voted you Most Likely to Sack Seed, this would be a great opportunity to return as a published author.)
  • Contact local and regional high schools, junior colleges, colleges and universities. Offer to speak to campus writers’ groups, clubs, writing or literature classes, etc. They might even ask you to present a writing award to a deserving student. I was paid $1500 for 20 minutes doing exactly that one time, and my poetry collections are (or maybe were) in the literary canon of that university just outside of Dallas, Texas in Denton.
  • Schedule appearances on panels at specific and multi-genre conventions and conferences.
    • Okay, frankly, panels suck. They’re mostly boring for the participants and they’re only minimally informative for the attendees, but they get you face time in front of your fans (current and prospective) and they help establish you as an expert, which can lead to other appearances.
    • Mostly panels serve to allow attendees to see and hear their favorite authors speaking and otherwise acting as if they really are mere mortals.
    • Note: Unless you can legitimately teach some aspect of writing, always opt for conventions rather than writers’ conferences.
      • Fans and Readers attend conventions, and they want to buy your book.
      • Writers attend conferences; they want you to buy their book.
  • Attend (whether invited or paid) and be visible and available at conventions appropriate to what you write: Science Fiction & Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Romance, Multi-Genre, etc.
    • If you aren’t invited to present or sit on a panel, the attendance fee for most conventions is minimal anyway, often hovering around $25 for a three-day pass. The point is, you can’t be visible and available to attendees if you aren’t there at all.
    • The first time a fan walks up and says, “Hey, aren’t you…?” and you get to say something like “Yep, that’s me. I’m not presenting at this one because I applied late, but I thought I’d make time to come hang out anyway” you’ve just made a fan for life. And chances are, his or her friends and acquaintances will come along as well.
    • If you know far enough in advance about the convention, you might set up a book signing at the Barnes & Noble or whatever across the street.
  • Finally, when you’re at any of those events, be continually visible, friendly and available to pretty much anyone (most will be your fans or fans of the genre) who wants to talk with you about pretty much anything. Paste a smile on your mug and never let them see how tired you are. You can sleep when the convention or conference is over. Do this and you will sell more books than you thought possible.

At one time, while writing my own stuff and editing for others, I was making as many as 18 writers’ conferences per year. Had I limited myself to conventions (where you aren’t glued into giving several presentations over the whole three or four days), I could have made a lot more. I don’t expect you to do that, but this is something all of you can do to some degree. It’s all a matter of priorities.

‘Til next time, happy writing!

Harvey

PS: If you’re reading this in an email and you’d like to comment (please do) just visit http://harveystanbrough.com/blog, scroll to the end of the current post and comment.

3 thoughts on “6 Ways to Increase Book Sales (and Why They Work)

  1. Hi Harvey, All really good stuff. I don’t have a book to put out yet. However, I sat at the table at a conference for a couple of different people and got to talk about my writing as well as theirs. One of those people is very prolific. Boy, if could write that much that fast and have that kind of income. Alan Dean Foster was a really good guy. Talk to any one. And he was standing in for the lead speaker. You may remember that at SSA conference when the lead speaker fell and broke his hip I think. I am pulling a blank on his name. It is right there and I will remember after I send. Anyway, everything you say, I have observed over the years of attending conferences and book festivals and signings. And I don’t see signings pulling very many people. I have seen a lot of people dressing as characters of the time period they are writing about. I am not sure it works but I know it gets my attention. Notice, I am in total agreement with you. However, I don’t throw my bookmarks away. Bett

  2. Hi Betty,

    Thanks for the comment. I wouldn’t dream of telling you to throw away your bookmarks (the ones you create for your books). I’m just saying if you have a thousand printed, they might bring you one or two sales. To me, that’s bad math. And if you’re talking about bookmarks you’ve received for other people’s books in SSA Conference packets, no need to throw them away. But how many of the books have you bought as a result of having received the bookmarks? Very few, I suspect.

    Harvey

  3. Harve, I was just talking about the bookmarks I collect. I haven’t printed any. I meant that I agreed they did very little good. In fact I bought a book and the author had some book marks and maybe I was wrong but I asked if I could have a bookmark for the book and she acted like she didn’t want to give it to me. Maybe she spent too much money on them.

    Bett

Comments are closed.