So you’ve spent what seems like countless hours (and dollars) writing your book and getting it self-published, and now you need to sell it.
“Write it, and they will come” isn't really a thing, so that means you’ve got to pound the pavement—in person and online—if you want to make off-the-charts sales.
There are loads of things you can do to sell your book, but some of them take lots of money to pull off, and the results can be slow.
But if you want to know how to promote your book without spending tons of cash, and you want to focus your valuable time on book promotion efforts that actually work, then read on.
1. Write an Eye-Catching Description
Your book description is more than a mere excerpt from your story—it’s a sales pitch. If you want to pique readers’ interest in your book, your description should be an exciting invitation to experience a transformation.
It should speak to your readers’ emotions, draw them in, and show them why your book is perfect for them. If you have killer back cover copy, you can re-purpose that text for your book description anywhere online, including product descriptions, social media posts, emails and your website.
2. Use Social Media
Love it or hate it, social media is a force to be reckoned with, so use it to your advantage. Focus on one or two platforms and create engaging posts that tell your audience more about you and your book.
Random musings will confuse your followers and probably won’t attract new ones, so be intentional in your approach.
Take some time to map out a social media strategy and schedule so that your posts are thoughtful and consistent.
And don’t forget the most important part of a social media post—the call to action. Don’t assume people know what you want them to do and how they should do it. You have to be direct and tell them exactly what to do next, like “click the link in my bio to get the book now,” or tap here to join my email list and get chapter one for free.” More on the free chapter in the next point…
3. Give a (Free) Sneak Peek
A great way to build your email list, generate interest in your book, and make more sales is to offer people a free chapter as an instant download in exchange for their email address. When you send the free chapter, you can include a link to pre-order the book or purchase it now if you’ve launched already.
Readers love a free chapter because it gives them a chance to preview your book before buying the full copy, so if you send them an amazing excerpt, they’ll be eager to buy the rest.
And the best part is this: whether they buy your book or not, they’ll be a subscriber to your email list, which means you’ll have ongoing opportunities to connect with them, build a relationship, and offer them your book or other products and services later.
4. Do a Local Event
While there are lots of great opportunities to sell your book online, one of the best ways to get exposure and sales is by doing good old fashioned local, in-person events where you can talk with people about your book and offer it for sale.
Sure, it takes time (and sometimes money) to plan local events, but don’t underestimate the power and profitability of the human connection and personal touch. Look for opportunities at bookstores, churches, and restaurants with event spaces. You can also check out Peerspace for unique, affordable venue rentals.
The key is to be resourceful because, after all, you want to make money at the end of the day. Low- or no-cost events that you can plan yourself are ideal, or you can sign up to be a vendor at a local event like a festival or conference if the vendor fee is reasonable. You could potentially get exposed to thousands of attendees at large events, so it’s a worthwhile book marketing strategy.
Keep in mind that some people don’t like to make impulse purchases at events, so create branded free giveaways or promotional items like palm cards or bookmarks that people can pick up and take with them even if they aren’t buying your book. When they look at your materials later, they can visit your website and make a purchase, or they can share it with someone else who could be interested.
5. Get Reviews
We all do it: we find something we think we want to buy online, then head straight to the reviews to see what other people said about it. And for many of us, the reviews make or break that purchase.
Social proof is priceless, and that’s exactly why you need some great reviews for your book. Offer a free copy of your book to a small group of people in exchange for a review that you can post on your website, social media, and online third-party booksellers (like Amazon) if you’re selling somewhere besides your own website.
If you’re using third-party sellers, your readers will have to post their reviews there, so make it easy—give them the direct link to post their review and provide clear instructions on exactly what to do. Once they post, you can copy those reviews and re-purpose them on your website and social media pages.
Be selective in identifying your review group—pick people who you know will take the time to read your book and write a thoughtful review. To get quality feedback, prompt your readers with some questions so they know how to start writing.
6. Create Your Own Website
If you don’t have an author website already, you need one. But don’t fret, because you can create a simple site in a matter of a couple of hours for a reasonable price. Just make sure you have the essential website pages so people can learn enough about you and your book to encourage them to buy.
And don’t forget to include an invitation to opt-in to your email list so you can start nurturing visitors even if they aren’t ready to buy your book yet.
Having your own website also allows you to offer visitors bundled products, like your book combined with other merchandise (mugs, t-shirts, etc.), and you can also offer special upgrades to your book like autographed copies. A website that you own and control opens up limitless opportunities to grow your business and brand, so it’s worth the time and small investment.
7. Speaking Engagements
Speaking engagements are one of the best ways to make book sales because once people hear you share your incredible story, they’ll be excited about buying your book.
Seek out opportunities to speak to audiences that are interested in topics related to your book. If your book is about business, then look for events that target entrepreneurs. If your book is faith-based, look for opportunities to speak at church conferences or retreats.
Preparation is key for speaking engagements, so make sure you have an idea of the potential audience size so that you bring enough books to sell. Also, it’s common that attendees want to chat with speakers after their presentation, so that will limit your availability to sell books yourself. You’ll probably need an assistant to manage your product table so you can fully engage and connect with attendees while sales are happening in the background.
8. Tell Everyone
If you’re like most people, you don’t want to bug your friends and family about buying your stuff. And in general, it’s true: people don’t want you to take advantage of your personal relationship to push your wares.
But here’s the thing: writing a book is a big deal. And most of your friends and family will be super excited and happy for you achieving this major accomplishment—if you tell them. I’m not talking about sending them a hundred emails about your book; I’m talking about a one-time email blast to every one of your personal contacts.
You’re going to tell them how excited you are to share that you just wrote a book, you’ll include your compelling book description and a link to your website where they can purchase the book, and you’ll ask them to spread the word.
You can also include an invitation to join your official email list if they’d like to get regular updates about what you’re doing relative to your book or other projects. And that’s it. No more book-related emails to your personal contacts after that.
Be sure to send this email to yourself as the recipient and then “BCC” your peeps so you’re not revealing people’s email addresses or creating the dreaded “reply all” situation because that will make your friends and family totally irritated with you.
And again, only send this email once so you don’t become a nuisance. The only people you can email multiple times are the ones who join your official email list because that group has consented to receive marketing emails. Never put someone on your marketing email list without their consent. It’s totally inconsiderate, and in some countries, it’s illegal. So NEVER, EVER do it. Ummkay?
9. Do Collaborations and Affiliations
Do you know other authors who are trying to figure out how to promote their book? Why not join forces with them so you can help each other get more book sales?
Once you get a group together, you can cross-promote on social media and be guests on each other’s podcasts, blogs, and live streams.
Or, you can collaborate on planning a local event where you’ll invite other product and service vendors to participate with you.
As the event organizers, you can charge other vendors to participate, which means more revenue for you.
Another option is to create affiliate or referral relationships with other authors or business owners who sell related products and services.
In exchange for their promotion of your book to their audience, you’ll pay them a referral or affiliate fee for each sale.
To do this right, there’s a little bit of tech involved: you’ll need a way to set up referral links or some kind of system so you can track your affiliates’ sales and make the appropriate payments. So if you’re not sure how to set this up, consult a tech-savvy person or website developer to help you out.
10. Make Sure Your Book is Actually Good
All of the tips you’ve read up to this point don’t amount to much if the product you’re selling is low-quality. Your book is a reflection of you as a person, a brand, and a professional. So before you create a book marketing strategy, you’ve got to make sure your book is actually good.
One of the first steps to take early in the writing process is to get beta readers: a small group of people who will read your manuscript and give you honest, constructive feedback. Ideally, you want objective people who are in your target audience. Depending on their feedback, you may need to revisit your manuscript and make some changes so your book will be more marketable.
Another critical step you should take is professional editing. Don’t depend on your eyeballs alone to edit your manuscript. A fresh set of professional eyes will catch the errors that you missed and make overall improvements to the flow and structure of your book. So don’t skip this important step because it could lead to a serious deficiency in the quality of your book, and that will hurt your reviews and sales for sure.
Completing your book is just the beginning of your book marketing journey. No matter how amazing your book is, no one will know it unless you tell them. But if you take the time to map out how to promote your book in a way that’s time and cost-effective, you’ll see the results in your sales.
But don’t try to Lone Ranger this thing. There’s power in connecting with a team that can support you in marketing your book with success. So don’t be afraid to reach out to people who can help and get them on board as soon as you can.
A professional editor is one of the most valuable members of your team, so if you need editing services, I’d love to help you create a book that you can be proud of. If you’re ready to work with me, let’s get started right here.
by Jennifer Westbrook | JenWestWriting Editing & Marketing Services