What Authors Can Learn from Shopping Behaviors

I love to shop. For the most part, I prefer shopping in physical stores where I can not only see what I am purchasing, but I can touch and feel it also. I know many people prefer to shop online. While not everyone shops the same way, there are a few similarities overall among people’s shopping preferences.

A new study by Catalyst, a marketing agency specializing in retail, explored consumer-shopping behaviors across multiple channels. Their research found that most customers prefer convenience over other factors when shopping. Here are a few of the findings from Catalyst’s study:

  • Convenience Is Paramount
    Amazon wins when it comes to convenience. Most customers prefer researching and buying products online.
  • Efficiency Matters
    Customers look for what saves them time. If it is not readily available to order or purchase, or if shipping is not fast, customers will walk away from a purchase.
  • Price Matters—but Quality Matters More
    Customers want the best quality for the lowest price. They are willing to pay more for a product when convenience and customer service are perceived to be superior.

There are a few nuggets of wisdom for authors in this study and its findings. Here are two lessons from this study that can help you sell more books.

1. Your books must be available in multiple channels for buyers to purchase.

Believe it or not, not everyone shops on Amazon. Your book needs to be available for purchase (and quick delivery) at the places where your readers shop. Having your book available for purchase on Amazon and your website is not enough. Make sure your books are in wider distribution so that they are conveniently available to more people.

2. Your book’s price affects sales.

One of the best rules to follow when independently publishing a book is simply this: Follow the industry standard. When pricing your book, this means that your book is priced in the same range as other books in its genre that are published by the large industry publishing houses.

Since print-on-demand is more expensive per book than offset printing (printing large numbers of books at once of 1,000 or more copies), independently published authors often price their books higher than industry standard. Pricing high allows the author to make a decent return on each book sold. However, pricing your book higher than other books in your genre can result in a loss of sales. Remember, people are looking for the best quality at the lowest price. If a reader is considering purchasing your book or another book on the same topic, if the books appear equal in quality, the reader will opt for the lower-priced book.

Book buyers are shoppers and they, like most consumers, prefer convenience, efficiency, and good deals.

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Are You Convincing Enough People?

As an author, your most important online presence is your website. Yes, your website—not social media, not Amazon, not Goodreads.

In fact, the purpose of social media is to get people to your website. The purpose of your website is to turn visitors into customers (people who buy your books).

According to research, 48% of people who enter a physical store buy something. However, on average, only 2 to 3 percent of people who visit a website purchase something. In fact, 96% of people who visit your website are not ready to buy. You have to convince them to purchase your books.

This is the purpose of your author website—to convince people to buy your books.

Experts report that when a visitor comes to your website, you have, on average, less than one minute to convince them to stay on your website. The longer visitors stay on your website, the greater chance you have of convincing them to either buy your book or sign up to receive your emails so you can continue to work on convincing them to buy your book.

The best way to keep people on your website is:

1.  Make sure your website loads quickly.
For every second delay in loading, you lose 7% of your potential visitors. Google analytics allows you to view your site load speed time.

2.  Have a compelling headline.
Your headline needs to be clear and draw your audience in.

3.  Give your visitors something to do.
Tell them what you want them to do. Make it clear. Large buttons that state things like:

  • Buy the Book
  • Download 10 Tips for…
  • Read the First Chapter

4.  Include a video.
Research shows that websites with a video of the product they are selling can increase their purchase rate by 144%. If you need an easy free video for your website, check out Bitable or Powtoon for creating a short video about your book.

Your website is your strongest tool for convincing readers to buy your book. Don’t overlook this important marketing mechanism. Use it wisely to convince your visitors that your book is worth their time and money!

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Bigger is Not Necessarily Better

The bigger the better. That’s our mindset.

Go to a fast food restaurant and you are frequently asked if you want to “supersize” your meal. We are usually looking to acquire bigger cars, bigger houses, and bigger paychecks.

slow-and-steady

Authors can easily fall into this mindset. We want to sell our books to the crowds. The bigger the audience the better. We can get so caught up in gathering a large audience, that we end up neglecting to convert the people in our audience to buyers.

Most people assume that larger audiences equate to more sales. This is the mindset of most traditional publishing houses today. The questions editors ask most aspiring authors are “How big is your audience?” and “What is your platform?”

A friend of mine blogs on virtues and skills of manliness. He has done a fantastic job of growing his audience through networking and cross-promotion with other bloggers speaking to men. As a result, a publishing house approached him about writing a book on ways to use pocket knives. The book was not his idea, it was the brainchild of the publishing house. They were simply looking for someone with an audience to write the book. That way, the publisher would be assured of sales because the author already had an audience to promote the book to.

Many people independently publish a book because—rather than having a large audience to sell the book to—they have a message or story they believe in. Yet, after the book is published, these same authors can get so caught up in seeking a large audience that they fail to really connect with their audience. As a result, their sales remain dismal.

Recently, thought leader Seth Godin did a short article on “How to be heard” on his blog. One of the statements he made was “Convert six people before you try to convert sixty.” This is excellent advice.

If you are struggling to be heard, if you are struggling to sell your books, follow this great advice. Focus on a few. Work on convincing the few people you already have in your circle to believe your message and buy your book before you try to persuade the masses.

In our immediate gratification culture, the concept of building your audience a little at a time seems counter intuitive. Yet, slow and steady usually gets that job done. Go for better, rather than bigger.

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How to Sell More Books

I have never met an author who did not want to sell more books.

I recently presented at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference where I spoke with many authors. One author I spoke with told me that she had been published by a traditional publisher, but then, she decided to self-publish a book.

sell-more

This author told me that the first book she published did not sell well because she did nothing to promote it. When she published her second book, she decided to get serious about promoting and marketing the book. Much to her surprise, as she promoted her second book, she not only sold copies of that book, but sales for her first book began to pick up.

Zig Ziglar said, “If people trust you, they will do business with you.” That is what you develop with a book: Trust with your audience. If you get your readers to trust you with one book, they will read your other books as well. Repeat customers are your best business. Get a reader hooked, and they will buy all your books.

For this technique to work best, you must publish your books under a brand. Publishing multiple books on widely disparate topics won’t help you sell more books.

The author whose second book helped sell more of her first book wrote books geared toward women. The first book was about healing from brokenness and the second book was about forgiveness. Both these books have the same audience—women—and they build on each other. A broken woman needs to forgive those that contributed to her brokenness.

You, too, can use this technique to sell more books. Simply publish more books. If you have written a book for children, write another one. If you published a young adult novel, write another one. If you wrote a book on parenting, write another one on another aspect of parenting. If you published a devotional, publish another one.

Build trust with your audience. One book can easily build trust, but if you don’t have another book for your audience to purchase, you lose out. After all, 80% of most business will come from your repeat customers—people who have come to know and trust you and what you offer.

You can sell more books. One usually surefire technique is to publish more books and promote them!

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Can I Trust You?

The other day, I received a phone call from a reader looking to purchase a book that is listed on Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) website. CSPA members can list their books on CSPA’s website as a marketing tool.

CSPA provides this service for a couple reasons:

man on phone

1. To increase the online visibility for our members’ books.
The more places a book is listed on the Internet, the more search engine results will appear for that book when someone searches the title. You want someone searching your book’s title to be able to find it easily. The more places your book is listed, the easier it is to find.

2. To increase the number of backlinks to our members’ websites.
The more backlinks you have to your website, the higher your site will rank in search engine results. In other words, when other websites host a link back to your website, search engines count this. The more links to your site exist on the Internet, the higher you rank in search engine results for your keywords. You can find out how many websites link to your website by using the free link tool at Free Backlink Check.

3. To broaden our member’s exposure for their books.
By listing a book on CSPA’s website, CSPA members gain additional exposure for their books. Visitors to CSPA’s website can browse the listed books, helping get more eyeballs on our members’ books.

Generally, when someone calls CSPA about a book listed on our website, it is because the member selling the book does not have their phone number listed on their website. So, in pursuit of actually talking to a person and getting an answer, the customer calls CSPA, thinking that we sell these books also since they are listed on our website.

I usually simply direct the person back to the CSPA member who is actually selling the book. Often, I provide the phone number since the member did not do so on their website. After all, I don’t want to see authors miss out on sales.

If you sell books from your website, don’t neglect this important piece of information in your contact information. Be sure to provide a phone number where someone can at least leave a message. If you want people to buy a book from your website, you must provide them the information they need to trust you. Consumers need to know that if something goes wrong with their order they will be able to get a hold of a human being to resolve the issue with.

In the recent phone call I received, the reader was trying to find out if she could have a copy of the book expedited to her as she needed it by a certain date. By not providing a phone number, this author risked losing a sale.

One of the important questions that your website must answer for consumers is: Can I trust you? Before someone will make a purchase, they must have trust that you will fulfill your promise. Providing a phone number in your contact information is one way you can let consumers know that you are trustworthy.

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