The final stage of marketing for authors is book sales. It includes the 4 P’s: Product, Place, Pricing, and Promotion, a concept first expressed in 1960 by E J McCarthy. Today there are lots of great tech tools that can help.
The rule of marketing is that a product—your book—must fulfill a want or need of customers. Are customers for your book? How large a market it is? Study the competitive landscape with market research to see what’s selling in your category or genre and how well these books are doing. Use Amazon’s Advanced Search, as I described in an earlier post on tech tools that help you create a good book cover.)
Kindle Samurai and Kindle Spy are two programs that help you analyze books on Amazon for high traffic and low competition keywords. Use them to view the ranking of competitive books, when they published, and what they’re selling for.
The most successful book sales strategy is to put the right product at the right price at the right place at the right time.
Let me tell you a story. My book American Borders is a book about my solo journey around the USA test riding a cranky Russian motorcycle as a specialty bike for the American market. My book launch activities included a tour with the Cycle World International Motorcycle Shows. They booked me for four 30-minute slots a day on the main stage and provided a free booth where I could sell my books. (The vendors on each side of me were paying a few thousand dollars each for their booths.)
The shows were in November and December, Christmas was coming up, and there had been a huge spike in ridership and motorcycle purchases by women in the previous two years. I published news of my appearance in my newsletter and all of the social media sites and forums I frequented. I sent a media kit to the organizers, who ran a new item about me on their site, and used the show’s Twitter handle to drum up excitement about the event and to let people know I’d be there.
Hundreds of people told me (via social media and email) they were coming by the booth to say hi. I made sure to make time for them and gave them as many postcards as they wanted to pass on to anyone they met at the show who might be interested.
Showgoers had pocketfuls stuffed with cash. They bought boots and helmets, earplugs and keychains, sunglasses and scarves, jackets and vests and gloves and socks and every little motorcycling-related gadget they could find. I priced my book at $20 flat so there would be no fiddling around with change. People literally threw twenties at me all day long, especially at the end of the day when their leftover money was burning holes in their pockets. I autographed until my hand was cramped but I didn’t care because I made about $4000 a weekend. After the first show, I realized I needed to fly my dad out to help handle the line and the cash box.
Selling Through Distributors
Most authors use distributors like IngramSpark, Smashwords, and BookBaby to reach bookstores who reach consumers. Think of these vendors as your B2B (Business to Business) sales partners to reach the maximum number of stores.
Selling to Online Retailers
However, you might find it advantageous to publish directly with the big four eBook retailers: Kobo, B&N Nook, Apple iBooks, and Amazon KDP. The people who run these channels have special programs and newsletters where you and your book can be featured. For example, here’s author Rachel Rueben’s post on how to get featured on Kobo.
Don’t Cross the Streams
It’s important not to create confusion by sending books to retailers from more than one channel. If you’ve uploaded your book directly to Amazon, Nook, iBooks, and Kobo, don’t also use IngramSpark or Smashwords to sell to the same places.
Selling by Email
Selling by email (I recommend MailChimp) is very profitable but you need to give your subscribers a lot of information (or entertainment) away free before you hit them with a hard sell. You can always soft sell by including a link to your book sales page somewhere in your email.
Selling to Retailers
Around the holidays, I start to ask motorcycle dealers and gear shops if they’d like to carry my travelogue on commission for 40% of the sales price. (That’s 60% for me!) Let them know you’ll take any unsold books back. Direct sales can be especially profitable if you’ve got a stock of books printed the old fashioned way on an offset printing press.
Study your competition using the tools I mentioned earlier to reveal what the market will bear and price accordingly. Don’t be afraid to experiment with pricing or offer discounts and freebies to your social media followers and newsletter subscribers. Both Gumroad and Smashwords offer discount codes.
Where will you promote your book? Social media can help, and Facebook ads can be very effective if you target your audience properly. (See Bookworks’ three-part series on targeted advertising strategies for indie authors.)
Amazon launched Amazon Marketing Services in early 2015–an ad creation service for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) users. Like Facebook ads, you pay per click to get it highlighted in Amazon store search results, relevant book and product pages, and on Kindle eBook readers.
Taking the time to beta publish not only ensures that you publish correctly but also helps to create excitement for your book. Use free tools like Gumroad, Leanpub, Patreon, Wattpad, Scribd, Facebook Notes , Pressbooks, forums, and your own website and blog to beta publish. Some of these tools let you collect money before your book is even finished!
Take advantage of back-of-room book sales at personal appearances to earn 100% of profits. At some events, you may be asked to pay a small percentage to the organization or tip a cashier. Back-of-room sales include book readings, speeches, panels, conferences, conventions, roundtables—anywhere you appear in person to discuss your book or a topic related to your book.
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