How to Become a Best-Selling Author

I recently listened to the audiobook version of Rich Dad, Poor Dad by best-selling author Robert Kiyosaki. In the book, Robert tells the story of being interviewed by a newspaper reporter in Singapore. During the interview, the journalist told him that she wanted to become a best-selling author but that the few novels she had written had not garnered much attention.

Sale Quote 1

Wanting to be helpful, Robert advised her to take a class on selling. The journalist became offended. She told Robert that she had a Masters Degree in English Literature and did not need to become a salesperson. Robert gently told her that he was a best-selling author, not a best-written author. He told her that his books did not reach the best-seller lists because they were well written, but because he knew how to sell.

Maybe you are like many authors I meet. You have written a book and now you just want to find a publisher to produce and sell it. You don’t want to have to take on the task of promoting and selling your book yourself. Or, maybe you are like this journalist; you have a distaste for “sales people” and don’t want to become one. Thinking about sales people conjures up an image of a less-than-honest used car salesman.

I think Robert Kiyosaki is right. Barring a supernatural move of God, authors must engage in the process of promoting, marketing, and selling their books to reach any significant sales level. Engaging in commerce is not an “unChristian” or “unGodly” thing. After all, Paul was a tent maker. He had to sell the tents he made to someone. Jesus was a carpenter before starting his ministry. He, too, had to sell his furniture to people. You and your book are no different.

Remember, your book meets a need. Maybe not a physical need like a tent or a table, but it meets a spiritual need. You are not so much selling your book, as the help or solution your book contains. Selling does not have to be pushy, annoying, or lack integrity. In fact, good sales people ask questions first, then listen before offering a solution. After all, a good sales person is a good problem solver.

If you feel like a fish out of water when it comes to promoting and selling your book, I suggest you follow Richard Kiyosaki’s advice: educate yourself. There are many resources for you to educate yourself on how to promote, market, and sell your book.
If you are selling a Christian book, consider the following:

  1. Subscribe to this blog and read the posts.
  2. Read my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.
  3. Listen to online seminars. Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has recorded sessions of our Publishers’ Institute seminars you can listen to.
  4. Become a member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) and receive on-going monthly information on marketing and promoting Christian books.

Information is power. Get the power you need to sell more books!

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Are You Using This Book Selling Technique?

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Amazon’s Kindle Instant Preview

Exposing your book to readers is what marketing is all about. Any activity that draws someone’s attention to your book is a marketing activity.

kindle

One way to expose more readers to your book online is through widgets that you can embed into websites and post on social media sites. In the past, I have written about BookBuzzr and Bublish, two sites that allow authors to create widgets that give readers a peek inside a book.

Did you know that Amazon Kindle has a free widget that you can embed on your website to give readers an ability to look inside your book? This widget can also be shared via email. Kindle Instant Preview allows readers to start to read your book instantly without having to open a PDF or other document on your website.

With Kindle Instant Preview, customers can read a sample of your Kindle book without having to leave your website. If they like the sample, a direct link will take them to the purchase the book via Amazon. A link is also included in the Instant Preview that allows readers to share the preview on their own social media sites or via email.

Using the Kindle Instant Preview is easy. However, your book must be available in Kindle format. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Find your Kindle ebook on Amazon.
  2. Look for the Embed link on the right-hand side of the page under the “Buy Now” inset. It is near the Share and social media (Facebook, Twitter) icons.
  3. Click the Embed link.
  4. Then choose either the HTML option or the Link option to use on your website or in your email. There is also a “see more options button” that lets you choose the size of the preview for the HTML option.

Additionally, if you are an Amazon Associate, you can add your Associate ID number to the Kindle Instant Preview and earn commission on sales you drive to your book from your website or email.

Sadly, I could not get the embed to work on this blog. However, if you click on the image of my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace below, it will take you to the Kindle Instant Preview via the usage of the widget’s link feature.

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Deciding What to Publish

Most independent authors produce and publish a book on a topic that is meaningful or important to them. The same is true for publishers. Many publish books by authors that have a platform to sell the books. However, one publishing strategy that some experts recommend is to find out what types of books people are interested in reading and then publish books for those needs. In utilizing this strategy, authors and publishers are assured of a built in audience for their books.

Decision

Recently, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) surveyed evangelical leaders about what topics they would like to see published in the next two years. In case you do not know, the NAE is a fellowship of member denominations, churches, and organizations. The organization’s goal is to “make denominations strong and effective, influence society for justice and righteousness, and gather the many voices of evangelicals together to be more effective for Jesus Christ and his cause.”

The evangelical leaders surveyed by the NAE included representatives from a broad array of evangelical organizations including churches, missions, and universities. These leaders listed interested in reading books on the following topics:

  • Missions
  • Social Action
  • Evangelism
  • Biblical Living in a Pluralistic Society
  • Multi-Ethnic Ministry
  • Discipleship

This survey shows that there is an audience seeking to read books on these subjects. This is good news, especially if you already have a book on this subject. If you have a book matching one of these topics, you can widen your marketing reach to include evangelical church and mission leaders. If you are looking for a subject, or you write books for church leaders, consider penning and publishing a book on one of these subjects.

However, before you charge ahead, let me provide one word of caution. Why would a church leader read a book you have penned or published? What authority do you have to speak on the subject? Are you a known Christian scholar or author? If you do not have specific qualifications that church leaders respect, your marketing may be for naught.

Enter endorsements. If you are serious about marketing a book to evangelical leaders, you are best served to acquire at least one endorsement by a church leader that carries some clout. Otherwise, church leaders may not think twice about reading your book.

Yes, church leaders want to read books on these subjects, but, remember, they want to read books by thoughtful, educated authors they can trust. Having an endorsement by a respected church leader opens the door for your book to be presented with confidence to evangelical leaders seeking more information on your subject matter.

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Publishing is Big Business

Every year Bowker reports the number of books publishing in the United States. As long as I have been watching these figures (over a decade), the number of books published each year has grown. Book publishing is big business.

Think about this: In 2014, Amazon’s book sales were about $5.6 billion, which is about 11.6% of Amazon’s retail sales. This amount of book sales represents the equivalent of 3,600 book stores. That’s a whole lot of books.

In fact, book publishing is the largest sector of content creation. According to a report by Code Mantra, in 2012 the book publishing industry made $151 billion in sales. This was more than the movies and entertainment industry made ($133 billion), more than magazines made ($107 billion), more than the video game industry made ($63 billion), and more than the music industry made ($50 billion).

Publishing is Big BusinessI know that a large reason the book publishing industry sells so much is due to the educational book market. However, the truth is, books are outselling movies, video games, music, and magazines.

If you are an author or a publisher, these statistics should lift your spirits. The book industry is a strong industry. Book sales are strong. People are buying books and will continue to buy books for years to come.

If you are struggling with book sales, the reason is not the economy nor is it the media competing for people’s reading time. The reason you are struggling for book sales is either due to the quality of your book or your marketing strategies (or lack thereof).

Books are selling. If you want to sell more books, I encourage you to take the time to educate yourself on strategies and techniques you can use to engage readers. You can:

  1. Read books on how to market and promote your book and follow their advice. If you write and publish Christian books, my book Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is a good place to start.
  2. Join an author or publisher association like Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) to receive ongoing information and services to help you effectively promote your books.
  3. Take part in online webinars and classes that teach you how to effectively promote your books.

The book industry is big business. That includes your books. Knowledge is power. Get the knowledge you need to sell more books.

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The State of Fiction Reading
A Half-Million Self-Published Books

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Direct Mail is Not Dead

Anyone seeking to live a healthy lifestyle can’t just say, “I exercise regularly so I have a healthy lifestyle.” A healthy lifestyle encompasses more than just regular exercise. It includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, appropriate sleep and rest, and healthy relationships. In other words, one thing does not make a healthy lifestyle, a holistic approach is needed.

junk-mail-pro-quo-mailbox-photo

The same is true for a marketing plan. One activity does not create a successful marketing plan. Even multiple activities in one medium do not create a strong marketing plan. For example, if all your marketing is online, you are not developing a holistic marketing program. You are missing out on print, media, and in-person marketing opportunities.

If you have become guilty of only using social media, email, and other Internet opportunities to market your books, I encourage you to consider other options as well. In particular, consider using direct mail—especially postcards.

Direct mail is still strong and postcards do catch people’s attention. Take a look at these statistics by the Direct Marketing Association:

  • 42% of recipients read or scan direct mail pieces.
  • 14% of individuals ages 45 to 54 respond to direct mail pieces.
  • 12% of individuals ages 18 to 21 respond to direct mail pieces.
  • 51% of recipients of direct mail find postcards useful, making them the favored type of direct mail piece by consumers.
  • Individuals are far more likely to respond to direct mail if it comes from a company with whom they have already done business.

Postcards work well for marketing books. If you have a list of addresses of people who have purchased a book from you at some point in time, sending a postcard when you release a new book is a great way to encourage sales. After all, the research shows that people respond to mail from companies they have already done business with. This means that you can win back previous book buyers and get them to purchase your newest book.

Better yet, include a coupon on your postcard. Studies show that 85% of Americans use coupons. In fact, 73% of Millennials say they find coupons in print sources such as the newspaper or mail, compared to 69% of GenX and 65% of Boomers. Adding a coupon to your direct mail piece increases engagement.

Remember, not everyone uses the Internet to the same degree. You are only hooking a portion of your audience via the Internet. You can use direct mail to widen your marketing reach and gain more customers for your books.

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Spending Precious Marketing Dollars
Not Everyone Uses the Internet
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