So far, each of my posts have dispensed advice about the nature of the industry and the best way to move your books in a very competitive market. Now, a few words about how NOT to sell your books.
Each month, an author approaches me with what they think is a new and innovative way of selling books. If only we could just do "this one thing," they reason, "my book will be a bestseller." Unfortunately, there is no one thing that will make your book a bestseller. It takes a lot of things all working together in just the right way, at just the right time, to make a book a success.
Here are a few things that have been pitched to me over the years as a "surefire" way of selling books:
1. "Let's buy an ad in (fill in the blank). Let me ask you this: when is the last time you purchased a book as a result of an ad you saw in a newspaper or magazine? Exactly, me either. To be blunt, buying ads in general interest newspapers and magazines (or radio or TV) just isn't very effective, and I say this as a guy who worked in radio and TV for 20 years. Sure, they may result in a few sales, but I have yet to see an ad that has sold enough books to pay for the cost of the ad. If this was an effective means of selling books, trust me, your publisher would be the first to do it. Better idea: Approach the local media about doing a feature article about your or your book, or a book review. The local media is always looking for feature article ideas.
2. "I took a class that showed me how to make my book a bestseller on Amazon. I just have to do (fill in the blank). There are no surefire ways of making a book an instant bestseller on Amazon, regardless of what some books or classes may tell you. If fact, Amazon doesn't even share how they arrive at their sales ranking numbers. It's a formula known only to Amazon. Stocking hundreds of books at Amazon and telling 300 of your closest friends to leave glowing reviews about your book on your book's page may work temporarily, but it's not going to result in your book spending five months in Amazon's top ten. Only legitimate book sales will do that. I have had authors who have had books hit the Amazon bestseller's list, but it was as the result of hard work and great media coverage. Did I mention the hard work? Better idea: refer people to your book's listing on Amazon through your Facebook, MySpace, blog and web site. You have these things, right?
3. "Send a copy of my book to Oprah." I have mentioned before how much of a longshot it is to get on Oprah. In my four years of marketing books, I have had exactly one author get booked on Oprah's show, and it had nothing to do with his book. It was the result of other media appearances the author was lucky enough to get. The book wasn't mentioned on Oprah's show. Better idea: target the newspapers, radio and TV station in your local area first. You're more likely to score an interview there than on Oprah.
4. "Get my book into Walmart." No doubt about it, Walmart does sell a lot of books. The next time you are there, take a close look at their book section. There are very few titles displayed there, and the ones that are there are almost always bestsellers already. Walmart doesn't take chances on new, unproven authors without a track record of sales yet. Better idea: ask the manager of your local Walmart if you can do a book signing there instead. On occasion, they do allow this.
5. "Let's pay for an e-mail blast. This company will send 10,000 emails to a targeted list of people who will buy my book." Actually, that email will wind up in the SPAM or junk mail filter of the email accounts of 10,000 people. I have never seen an email blast work as a means of selling books. Ever. When is the last time you have purchased a book as a result of an email you received out of the blue? Me either. Better idea: Send an email to your contacts inviting them to your next book signing event. The more people you attract to your events, the better. Bookstores love authors that can draw a crowd.
There are others, of course. With few exceptions, they almost always cost the author additional money, which could be better used for things like bookmarks, posters, business cards and other items you can use at your book signing events. Remember, your book is your business, and each expenditure should be a wise business decision.