Sunday, May 6, 2012

The best way to sell lots of books

You've written a book and got it published, whether indie or traditional. Now how do you sell it? For over a decade there has been a big push for authors to build an online platform as a basis to boost sales.

In a recent Romance Writers of America poll, I noted a section called "Activities That Do or Do Not Interest the Romance Buyer" and the interaction of readers with authors on social media. Here are a few of the percentages.

Percentage of readers who DO NOT AND WILL NOT:
  • Follow authors on Twitter: 83%

  • Follow authors on Goodreads: 75%

  • Follow an author group blog: 72%

  • Follow authors on Facebook: 70%

  • Participate in online author events: 69%

  • Read an author's blog: 62%
For those who do follow authors on Facebook, 76% said being friended does not influence their purchase decisions. And 67% said that reviews in blogs do not influence their purchases.

The top purchase influence is enjoying an author's previous books.
So what can you do to sell books?

Write a good book.

I'll leave it to Tosh to discuss the practical side of marketing for an indie author and harp on this one point.

Write a good book. I can't emphasize it enough. Study the craft. Learn the craft. Find a critique group with authors of substance. Learn to take criticism. (Probably the hardest thing in the list.)

Read voraciously, mainly the good stuff, but also a little of the bad stuff to see how it reflects the things you're doing wrong in your own work and how bad it looks out in the wild.

Write incessantly. Put in your 10,000 Gladwell hours. Be profligate with your words. Try the same story from different angles, different points of view, different protagonists. Experiment and don't hesitate to throw out 10,000 or 20,000 or 50,000 words if it's not working.

To give a personal example, last week after four drafts and 80,000+ words, I threw away everything I've done on my next novel and started over with a blank screen. And I'm not a newbie. I have four traditionally published books and two indie books. I say that not to brag but to illustrate that you have to be brutally honest with yourself about your work, take criticism from sources you trust, be willing to wipe the slate clean, and start over, regardless of what you have invested.

Write a good book.

That's table stakes. Because otherwise all the marketing tricks in the world are nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig, which is just a waste of lipstick and it annoys the pig.

Brad Whittington is the author of the Fred trilogy, What Would Jesus Drink? and Muffin Man.