When I published The Journals of Bob Drifter, I had some pretty funny ideas about how the book would sell. I thought I had friends who would buy the book and recommend it to others. I thought those readers would recommend more. I thought I’d do a few events and I’d need boxes and boxes of my book just to keep enough stock.
That wasn’t remotely the case. While setting up what I call my six-month tour in my little area, I did manage to get invites from a few bookstores, who not only allowed me to peddle my wares in their place of business, but they also have a few copies of my books. To this day, I’m grateful for them, but I have yet to sell a single copy of my book anywhere I’ve been that sells books.
Now, it’s possible that I just don’t know what I’m doing. If you’ve had success at a bookstore, please let me know in the comments below. As I was looking for the closest window from which to leap, something occurred to me.
People don’t go to bookstores to find books. They go to bookstores to find books they’re looking for.
That might sound like the same thing, but stick with me here. I love books! I love reading. I have my own little system regarding how I buy my stack of books. As I stood there watching people walk by trying ever so politely to pretend I don’t exist, I realized those people didn’t come to the book store to meet a new author. I know I don’t go to a book store to do that. I go to book stores, to find the latest books form authors I already know and love. I walk in the door, scan the “coming soon” sign, zip straight to the Fantasy section and look for those names I’ve already learned I enjoy seeing work from.
How many of you have a list of favorite authors? I know I do. I have what I call “Authors who I drop what I’m reading for.” I have authors who I know I will enjoy reading while I wait for one of those other authors to finish writing another book. Every rare now and again, I’ll be so hard up for a book I’ll wander my favorite section and give a cover that draws my attention a shot. But my time is rare these days, and I have a lot more author friends now. I tend to read their work and the work of their friends.
The point is, I don’t meet new authors there. Do you? I give new authors a chance through one of three ways: Way One (most rare): I’m desperate for something to read, and I look for the coolest cover I can find. This scares me because I usually end up in the middle of a trilogy or not liking the book. I have a rule about finishing books I start, and sometimes the “cover” technique disappoints me.
Way Two (Next Most Rare): I read anthologies when authors I love are in them. Honestly, this has been the most reliable. I’m a huge fan of Peter V. Brett, but I never would have known about him had I not read an anthology that included Brandon Sanderson. There are a few other authors I’ve discovered in that manner, too. Lucky for me, I’m very lucky to be involved in Idle Voyages, and I’m optimistic about the chances those readers will find a bunch of authors they’ll enjoy.
Way Three (Most Common): Word of Mouth. This has burned me every bit as much as it’s been a blessing. I’ve come to expect some recommendations will be better than others.
What awkward position does this method put a self-published author in? I’ve only just been invited to participate in an anthology. I have a few friends and readers that sing my praises. I have one in particular who may have sold more of my books than I have.
Don’t fret. While I’d like to hear from others who have more success than I do through social media, I do know of one glorious place where people are willing to give new authors a shot.
Conventions! Disclaimer: I’m a fantasy/paranormal/science fiction author. Conventions work for me because that’s where my readers go. There, they’re willing to meet people and give new authors a try. I have the most sales at conventions, and the residual sales are also more effective.
Now I noted in a lot of my earlier blogs that I went into this ignorant and without a plan. That was just plain foolish of me. Since then, I’ve become more active in social media. I’ve gotten my website to be more effective (Thanks Quintessential Editor!) It’s just too soon to see if these methods will help more, but basic marketing still holds true.
Identify your audience. No. People everywhere won’t love your book. You’re audience isn’t everyone. You’re audience is very specific. I like it when lots of people try reading my book, but when I sit and think about who will most like my book, I get a very specific picture. You should too.
Find out where they go to hang out. You want your marketing to get your product in front of your potential readers. I promise, you can spend thousands on marketing, tracking impressions, printed products or views. Those metrics are pointless if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach. I know because I wasted thousands doing just that. Don’t make my mistake.
Lately, I’m much more careful about how I market and what I invest in. I make sure that what I’m paying for has some quantifiable way to measure success. When I invest, I ask, What do I want to do, and how will I track it’s effectiveness? That doesn’t always have to mean sales, but it’s nice when it does.
What am I looking for other than sales?
Active Followers. Followers who read my blogs, post comments or click likes. The more regularly they work with me, the more encouraged I am they’ll want to or have read my book. This applies to all social media platforms.
Clicks to my buy page. When I invest in online marketing, I want to see what effectively gets people to click on the link where they can buy my book. So I measure this by tracking link clicks. I can use this same formula to gain more followers as well.
Other Blogs. First off, other bloggers are awesome. I meet a lot of very smart people who in turn make me smarter. Next, I remember a rising tide floats all boats. The more you work with others, the more they’ll work with you.
To date, more than half of my sales have come from conventions. They’re demanding and draining, but they work. When Caught is released, I’m going to focus the great majority of my efforts on those conventions. It’s where I found my readers.
Have you earned sales in other ways? Do you have a trick that’s worked? I’d love to hear it. Until then, see you next time.
Thanks for reading,