Don’t Get Taken by a Salesman

“You’re a good salesman, if you make people buy product they don’t need.” —Toba Beta

I am not a sales person. I know how to market, but hand-selling through persuasion is not my strong point. A good salesperson knows how to play on your FOMO (fear of missing out). He or she will convince you that if you don’t buy what they are selling that you will miss out.

An independent author of a specialty book recently asked me for recommendations of who he should talk to in the publishing industry for furthering his distribution and sales. I gave him a list of a few companies and he set off to a trade show.

After the trade show, this author called and told me that the companies I told him to meet with did not impress him much. He then relayed that he had met a gentleman who had a publishing house that really impressed him. He stated that the man was interested in publishing his book and wondered if he should take him up on his offer.

With a little more questioning, I discovered that the “impressive” gentleman was the owner of a subsidy (sometimes called vanity or custom) publishing house. This gentleman was willing to take the author’s money to republish his book and place it into distribution.

I explained this to the author and told him that this publishing house would redesign and republish his book and place it in distribution, but they would not “sell” his book for him. This would still be his job.

It appears this author had been taken in by a salesman. The subsidy publisher knew his stuff and was able to “sell” his business well. The other companies I had suggested the author meet with were not about “sales”.  These companies don’t take money upfront like a vanity press. Rather, they make money on how they perform (when they actually move product).

The companies that make money on their performance don’t need to sell anything. Instead, they want to make sure you, the author or publisher, has a product they think they can sell and sell well. They were not “selling” anything to this author, so they had no need to be impressive.

Later in our conversation, the independent author reported that the salesman who he had been so impressed with had admitted that the best way to make money on selling books is for authors to sell them direct to consumers.

Bingo! Mixed into his great sales pitch was the hard truth.

Few publishers—whether traditional or vanity—have a robust program to sell books directly to consumers. Selling directly to consumers is usually left to the author.

I explained to this author that the best marketing plan is a well-rounded plan that includes a variety of sales channels including:

  1. Distribution for bookstore and library sales.
  2. Marketing to bookstores and libraries.
  3. Direct to consumer marketing through a website, blog, social media, email marketing, and print media, as well as speaking engagements.
  4. Pursuing bulk sales via catalogs and organizations.

Don’t be taken by a smooth-talking salesman. Selling books is hard work. Anyone who tells you that they will take a large chunk of your money to sell your books will do just that—take your money. Remember, the vast majority of authors and many publishers struggle to sell enough books to make a profit.

Christian Indie Publishing Association exists to educate small publishers and independent authors on cost-effective ways to market books. All our marketing programs are cooperative and low-cost because we understand that return on investment when promoting books is slow and difficult. If you are looking for information and resources to help you develop a robust marketing plan, join the association today!

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Photos courtesy of Mohamed Hassan.

Social Proof Can Help You Sell More Books

Smart authors know that social proof is an important marketing tactic that eases the minds of worried customers.

Social proof is defined as the influence that the actions and attitudes of the people around us (either in real life or online) have on our own behavior.

There are basically five types of social proof:

  1. Expert: When an industry expert or well-known personality recommends your product or services.
  2. Celebrity: When a celebrity people like endorses a product or service.
  3. User: When current users of the product or service praise it.
  4. Crowd: When a large crowd of people are using a product or service as shown through social media or events.
  5. Certification: When a person or product is given a stamp of approval by an authority in the industry, such as winning a book award or obtaining a seal of approval.

Social proof is extremely important when selling books. As humans, we want to know that what we are getting ourselves into will be worthwhile—especially when it comes to buying a product or a service. Buyers want to know what others are saying about the product or service.

Even wise King Solomon understood this concept when he wrote “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Proverbs 27:2)

The two easiest types of social proof for authors to secure are expert and user. You gain expert social proof by obtaining endorsements. You gain user social proof through reader reviews.

Sadly, few independent authors take the time to secure expert social proof (endorsements). A recent quick survey of books submitted for the Christian Indie Awards showed that only about one-third (one out of every three books submitted) featured any type of endorsement or review on the book’s cover (front or back) or in the front pages of the book.

If you are not securing endorsements, you are losing out on a very important social proof that will help you sell your book.

It’s never too late to secure endorsements. With today’s print-on-demand technology, you can still get endorsements after you have published your book and then adjust your book cover to feature these endorsements.

If you are unsure about how to go about securing endorsements, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) provides our Members help. Members can watch the on-demand seminar Endorsements Help You Sell More Books to learn how to obtain endorsements. The webinar includes a sample template letter to use when requesting an endorsement.

The on-demand seminar is also available to authors who are not Members of CSPA. You can pay a fee to watch it at https://mcbuniversity.selz.com.

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Are You Paying Attention to Details?

“The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.” ~Charles R. Swindoll

Attention to detail is important. Some people are better at details than others. Yet, Charles Swindoll nails it with this statement. If you want to have a great book, you must pay attention to the details.

I find that many independent authors don’t pay enough attention to details. Over the past few months, numerous books published by independent authors have poured into Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) office as nominations for the Christian Indie Awards were made.

What has caught my eye repeatedly, is the number of books whose back covers do not look industry standard. The front covers are generally well designed, but the design and informational elements on the back cover are lacking.

Now, I know that over half of all books are purchased online. I understand that when browsing online people do not pull a book off the shelf and look at the back cover—which, by the way, is one of the first few things a reader looks at when viewing a physical copy of a book. But, as an author, you will still have times where you are showcasing your book in person. Therefore, it is extremely important that attention to detail is given to both the front and back covers of your book.

A number of independently published books nominated for the Christian Indie Awards show up with just a few paragraphs of text on the back cover of the book along with an EAN barcode. Yes, this is acceptable, but it is a minimalist approach and does not mirror industry standard for books.

The failure of these authors to pay attention to details has resulted in their books lacking four important back cover design elements.

1. Sales Copy Designed to Attract the Eye

Simply having blocks of text on the back of a book is not good sales copy. People skim back covers instead of reading them. With no text or quotes that are designed to stand out or attract the eye, your book is less likely to sell itself.

2. Testimonial or Endorsement Quote

Books that lack testimonial or endorsements quotes on their back cover also fail to sell a reader on the book with one of the most powerful selling techniques—social proof. Social proof is simply the positive influence that is created when people find out that others are doing something or finding something worthwhile.

3. About the Author

While an “About the Author” is not necessary on the back cover of a book, it is another industry standard and helps sell a book.

4. BISAC Subject Headings

BISAC Subject Headings are put out by the Book Industry Study Group (BISG). These headings are industry standard for informing industry professionals (booksellers, librarians, distributors, etc.) and readers what category your book falls into. In other words, no one needs to wonder whether your story is fiction or nonfiction. The subject headings tell them. Industry standard books tote a BISAC Subject Heading on their back covers.

If you want a great book, you must pay attention to details. You don’t want someone to walk away from your book because they couldn’t get what it is about at a glance.

If you are unsure about what details you need to pay attention to, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) has help for you. Our Members have access to the on-demand seminar, Create a Professional-Looking Book, as well as a downloadable Checklist for Publishing a Professional-Looking Book that includes everything you should include on your book’s front and back cover. Remember, your attention to detail will make the difference between your book being good or great.

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Photo courtesy of marcomagrini.

How to Stand Out from the Crowd

Do you remember these puzzles from your childhood (or maybe your kids’ childhood)? Which one is different?

Standing out from the crowd is important. With over one million self-published books produced every year, how do you stand out from the crowd?

The answer lies is not in drawing attention to yourself by standing out in an odd or strange way as in the above puzzle. Instead, you want to stand out in ways that are attractive and draw people to you and your book.

It’s not just your book that must stand out. Your marketing efforts also need to stand out in the crowd to attract attention.

After you have written a compelling book that is professionally edited and designed, your next step is to ensure that your marketing activities don’t just mimic what others are doing, but stand out from the crowd.

standing out from crowd

You can stand out from the crowd with the following three strategies:

1. Informative and Unique Content

Give away free content that ties into the theme of your book. This free content must also be unique and answer important questions or solve important problems your target audience faces. Share this content on your blog and in your social media posts. Offer some content in downloadable format for interested readers to receive in exchange for their email address. This helps build your email marketing database.

 2. Connect with Your Audience

Connection is about caring. We connect with others when we care about them. Care for your audience. Show up where these people hang out—be that on social media or in person. Talk to them. Rejoice when they rejoice, mourn when they mourn. Support their efforts and cheer them on. Most people crave authentic connection. Your audience will begin to trust you when they see that you are authentic.

3. Be Consistent

Many Indie authors start strong, but soon fizzle out. When results don’t roll in the way these authors expect, they turn their attention elsewhere. It takes at least a year to build a strong, loyal following. To stand out, you must show up consistently and add value to people’s lives.

In marketing and selling books, you want to be noticed in a good way, not because of appearing odd or strange. Show up, connect with your audience, and offer them great content. Stand out for the value you bring to people’s lives.

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Photo courtesy of Anton Belitskiy.

But, Can You Sell It?

“My story is perfect just the way it is.”

These words were spoken to me by an aspiring author. I was meeting with this lady on the request of a friend. This aspiring author had penned a lovely rhyming story for children aged three to six. She was seeking feedback and direction.

At the start of our meeting, the author informed me that she thought she should find herself a literary agent for the book. She asked me how she would go about finding one.
I let her know that I could give her information on finding a literary agent, but I could also save her some time by giving her some feedback on her story that would help her in securing the services of a literary agent. This is when she made the statement that her story was perfect.

I attempted to explain to this aspiring author, that while her story might be wonderful, a literary agent and a publisher look at potential books from a number of angles. One important thing they always consider is the sellability of a book. In other words, literary agents and publishers evaluate first and foremost whether people will buy the story or topic in the format presented.

To begin with, this author’s story was 1,600 words in length. I explained to her that this length was much too long for a picture book for her target age group. Therefore, for a literary agent to be willing to represent it, she would need to cut the story length.

This author then suggested that instead of one book, she would make it into a series of seven books. Again, I talked about the ability to sell a book. Selling one picture book is much easier than selling a set of seven picture books. Parents are more likely to invest in one book than in a set of seven.

Stuck on her original idea, this lady really did not want to change her story. Hence, she began to have the same thought as many authors: “Maybe I should just publish it myself.”

The truth of the matter is, sellability matters whether you publish a book yourself or someone else publishes the book.

Readers have expectations. They have expectations about how a picture book should read for their child’s age. They have expectations about the flow of a story. They have expectations about the layout of a book. A book needs to meet these expectations to sell well.

If you are publishing a book, ask yourself: Can I sell it? Will people buy it?

The answer to this makes all the difference.

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