Smart Strategies to Market & Sell Books
On a perfect November day in the Midwest, my email inbox quickly fills with messages from successful online entrepreneurs most of whom are also authors, who want me to pick an email marketing service software they recommend so they can show me how to build an email list.
Most authors have heard ad nauseum that the best way to sell books is to your email list.
That’s right the “money is in the list.” Show me the money.
This strategy tops everyone’s list as the #1 way to sell books, and I’m convinced it works once you select a service and learn how it works.
Sure, you can put an email marketing service on your website in a matter of minutes or have someone do it for you and then watch a few training videos to learn the basics of how to operate the email service, and before you know it you will have begun to build an email list.
Thank you very much to Michelle at Mission-Mojo for helping me with this process.
However, there are a lot of moving parts to sell to your list. You can’t just build a list, and they will come.
Sorry writers, it doesn’t work that way.
I know because I’m in a 3-day email blog challenge with one entrepreneur and I’m gearing up for – wait for it – an email marketing course with a different entrepreneur.
I’ve been looking through the early training material, and it’s dizzying.
In the meantime, I’ve gotta sell books and you do too regardless if you have an email list.
This time last year when I released book my I didn’t have no stinkin’ email list, and I still managed to earn a couple of thousand dollars in sales from my book.
Chump change to these internet guys with BIG email list, but a score for me a humble self-published author from the Midwest.
Before we get started, FYI: I occasionally use the word books and eBooks interchangeably because basically they can be written the exact same way and only have tiny little differences.
WHO AM I?
A humble self-published author from the Midwest.
I wrote my first eBook in 2012, and I’ve written over a dozen eBooks for myself under various pen names.
One of my books (NOT the one I’ll be referencing in this post) made it to the Amazon’s bestseller list in a tiny category. Yeah, I know Whoop-Dee-Do!
As a top-rated ghostwriter working through several online sites and independently, I’ve written hundreds of outlines and or eBooks for satisfied clients. I’ve also helped many clients successfully promote and sell books.
Like many authors, I never wanted to involve myself in book promotion, not even for my books. However, after back to back book flops and repeatedly being asked How To Sell More Books from clients my book marketing journey began.
If you build it and don’t promote it, they won’t come!
Last year I was selected to be part of Pat Flynn’s (Smart Passive Income) book launch team. Collectively, we helped launched Flynn’s book to the Wall Street and Amazon bestsellers’ list (the big list, not a tiny category list).
Being on the book launch team gave me an inside look at how the book marketing process goes for someone with a big book marketing budget.
WHO I AM NOT?
I’m not a youngen’ internet marketer marketing guru. I haven’t mastered overly complicated strategies to sell books such as figuring out Amazon’s A9 algorithm, I’m not a keyword Goddess, and I can’t tell you how to build an email list you can sell too.
However, over the course of this past year using smart marketing strategies, I earned over $3,000 grand for my book which is a lead magnet for my services and online courses.
Some won’t blink an eye at that amount but for those who recognize that this is a high five moment, High-Fiver, keep reading.
MY SMART STRATEGY 10 – POINT PLAN
A 10-point plan might sound complicated, but it’s easy – Write it down.
This advice is so simple, yet authors don’t do it. I didn’t do it with my other books.
I wasn’t totally drinking the Kool-Aid that if you build it, they will come – but with an exhaustive writing, schedule marketing fell by the wayside right alongside books that flopped.
I didn’t want this latest book which I’d put so much effort into writing to meet the fate of my other books, so this time around I avoided haphazard marketing.
I took out a sheet of paper and wrote down 10 things I would do to market my book.
Strategic book marketing at its finest!
I recommend you do the same. Take out a sheet of paper and write down at least 10 things that you will do to market your book.
What you write down (or type up) becomes your book marketing plan.
Keep your plan simple and or only include actions you can do.
When I was creating my list, I didn’t include anything marketing activities with a lot of moving parts because I didn’t want to go nuts.
Your mission readers. Don’t go insane. Create a simple marketing plan that is something you can realistically and logistically do.
Sell books on many websites. Amazon isn’t the only game in town.
In the beginning, I thought the sun rose and set on Amazon’s $0.99 cents and $2.99 ass. For those who don’t know those are the sweet price points that most everyone prices a book at on Amazon.
There are many sites to sell your books.
Gumroad. I choose Gumroad over eJunkie because it’s the one I figured out how to navigate first. On that site, I sell my book at various price points between $5 – $20.
Compare that to selling my book for $1-3 on Amazon.
On third party platforms I sell the book and various price points and the book is a lead magnet for my services, and ethical upsells.
Your mission readers: Explore the many sites where you can sell your book for what it’s worth.
Created classes. I created several classes from my book. Creating a class, like building and selling to an email list has a lot of moving parts. Thankfully, I was able to squeeze time in and learn how to do it – it wasn’t a marketing activity that made me batty.
Creating a class is where another bulk of money earned from the book came.
Indeed a class falls into that lots of moving parts category, and like building an email list, this might not be an option for everyone. But if this gal from the Midwest can do it, you can too.
Your mission Readers: Discover the many ways you can earn from your book.
Threw everything in the book including the kitchen sink. When I launched my book on “How to Write a Nonfiction Book Outline.” It included 37 outline templates. That’s what I mean by throwing the kitchen sink, translation packing the book with valuable content.
UPDATE 2018. I threw 50 templates in. (Click on the word update to see what I mean).
When you write a book regardless of the topic, there’s going to be an overwhelmingly amount of competition. To increase your chances that your book is the one chosen strive to over-deliver with valuable content and not fluff.
This might not seem like a marketing strategy but it is just like selecting a great book cover, and writing a great book description are book marketing strategies. (Finding the perfect book cover is always a challenge, sigh :).
Your mission readers: Deliver value X’s 10.
Create A Contest. I created an ugly sweater contest that was as corny as wearing an ugly sweater on Christmas and emailed information about the contest to family and close friends.
I was amazed at how many people purchased my book simply because they could win a prize.
You can beg and plead all day long for family & social media friends to take action and buy your book but throw in a silly little contest in which they can win something, and they’ll beat down your door.
OK maybe not beat down your door but many will be encouraged to buy your book.
You can read about the contest here. (update: 2018, contest is super cheesy).
Your mission readers: Create a contest that will market and sell your book. There are contest services you can use.
Reached out to my email list. This wasn’t the email list that I’m currently building for my writing business and books.
This email list consisted of people who were a little less familiar to me than the previous group who I sent info for the ugly sweater contest
This list consisted of mostly everybody on my email list from “forever.”
OK, maybe not from forever but there were people on this list that I might have only met one time in person, a very long time ago, at a writing conference.
There were former neighbors on this list from when I lived in California. There were people on the list who I met while volunteering, people who acted in a local play I produced, an editor where I previously wrote an ongoing guest column.
This list was indeed an old-fashioned list not part of an email marketing service list.
Even though the list was miscellaneous, I cherry-picked the names and didn’t send to a few people for various reasons, but for the most part about 50 ish people who hadn’t heard from me in a while, heard from me.
I figured what did I have to lose using this as a strategy. I wasn’t planning on adding these people to the new email list I was building.
Although the communication was generic it was written in a conversational tone, not at all salesy or spammy with just a tiny pitch at the end about my book.
Also, if I was able to recall where I’d met the person, I added a line or two that was more personal.
How ya doing? Did you ever finish that screenplay?
I was pleasantly surprised to hear back from and connect with a few people. They bought the book and a couple of them even reviewed it.
Your mission readers: Reach out to your email list from “forever.” Try your best not to be salesy and to add a personal touch to the communication.
(update: 2018 the above method might not work on AMAZON. Click here to read the blog post on why.
Created images in Canva and shared on social media. I created images on canvadocom. In case you don’t know Canva is a free site where anyone can create images. There is a paid version, but the free version is pretty good, and if you want you can purchase images for $1.
Previously when I’d released a book, as an after-thought, I’d put a link to the book on a social media site and it was a very salesy and spammy.
Buy my book. Buy my book.
This time around I utilized story marketing as a way to sell books. Don’t sell me, tell me.
(update 2018: I bumped up to the paid version of Canva and have gotten a lot more better at using creating images, much better than the cheesy ones in this post).
Your mission Readers. Learn the proper images sizes for the various social media sites you use story marketing to sell your book. FYI, Canva has pre-made template sizes that you can use.
Of course, it matters not what program you use or if you hire someone to create the images.
Use book marketing services. There are countless book marketing companies that you can pay a small fee to promote your book. Of course, there are services where you can pay a big fee too.
Because there is no way to determine the effectiveness of many of these services I won’t pay more than a few bucks for book marketing services.
The one service I previously used is a gig on that cost $5 bucks. I’ve actually used this service for most of my books.
When I first used the service many years back, I didn’t know if it was any good, but I figured for $5 bucks what the hell. (Update on Fiverr Book Promotion Service)
I think the service helps me sell a few books. I believe this because I’ve download free or discounted services from the service.
I also tried out a new service for my book, FreeEbooks Promotion . It cost just $3.00 I believe that service is the reason why I sold 16 books in one day.
Including a few book marketing services on your list is a win-win situation.
You turn your information over to them, and they do the work. I caution that if you haven’t researched the service and or know people who recommend it, use caution.
Your mission readers: Research and hire a book marketing company (or individual) to promote you book.
(update 2018: Fiverr has made too many changes, and NOT for the better. I’ve gone back to finding freelancers on Craigslist and meeting them to discuss work in public places).
Share a tip in Pat’s First Kindle Group. This is the same Pat who I mentioned earlier in this post. When Pat wrote his first book (not the latest book that I was part of the book launch team), he started a Facebook group for authors, and it has grown to close to 16,000 members.
This group is where authors go to share information. It’s not one of those groups where you drop off a book link and disappear.
Spamming is not allowed. But if you include a few tips, strategies, tools, services that have helped you promote your book – you can share a link to it.
This is a super-easy book marketing tip that I added to my list. Join a group of like-minded people and share. Although this strategy can be a time suck, it works really well, and you meet amazing people.
(update 2018: Pat’s Group seems deserted these days. Here’s where I find the best book marketing tips these days.
Mark Dawson’s group (SPF Formula) on Facebook. Pat Flynn’s YouTube Videos. Steve Scott’s Facebook group (Authority Self-Publishing). I’m currently binging on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast with Lindsay Buroker, Joseph Lallo, Jeffrey M. Poole. When YouTube recommended one of there episodes, I almost passed because I don’t read Sci-Fi or fantasy (although I’ve since bought some of their books), and as a nonfiction author (now writing Cozy mysteries), didn’t think the marketing tips would help. The marketing tips they share help a lot.
Your mission readers: Find a group, forum, or podcast where your targeted readers hang out, and if allowed share and promote your book. If not allowed, just hang out and learn and contribute.
Wrote a Mega Blog post. This tip has worked the best. Not only did I write the Mega Book on how to outline a Nonfiction Book, but I also wrote Mega Blog Post.
This blog post is the reason my books and classes on the various platforms consistently and continuously make sales. The post ranks #1 in Google for certain keywords.
On average, I get decent amount of views to the post per day.
It’s not a large number (50 ish), but it’s my perfect target audience, and each day over the past year, I’ve made book sales, had class enrollments, sold services because of that one post. That post is the little engine that could.
I’m slowing down with freelancing work and concentrating more of my efforts on creating products and classes, therefore I turned down a lot of writing work this year, had I not done so I would have made much more money from leads generated from my book.
FYI: For advanced book marketing strategies you might check out Dave over at Kindlepreneur. If you want to learn how to build an email service using Mailchimp, you might check out the free videos on the site.
Your turn author what strategies do you use? Do share in the comment section below.
Your online friend, FBK.