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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Psst! Authors . . . Here is How to Sell Your Book!

(The following essay appeared in today's Libri Novus, the official monthly e-letter of Savas Beatie. If you would like to receive this in your email box each month, go to our website at www.savasbeatie.com and enter your email address in the Libri Novus form box.)

Authors, Listen up! Sell Your Book!

by Gary W. Moore

No one cares more about your book than the author. No one. And no one should be working harder to sell your book than you. If you want respectable sales, you must play a major role in making that happen. It is especially true today, with so much competition for attention, fewer trade outlets, and chains purchasing fewer titles in smaller numbers.

Take my own experience as an example. If you want to know where I speak and hold events, just follow my Bookscan numbers. My sales numbers are largely clustered in areas where I have spent time working. Let's take a particular market: Indianapolis, Indiana. When I go there I promote my book and myself by meeting people, signing books, speaking to groups, and so forth. As a result, my book sells X copies directly that I can track. I can check my Bookscan numbers weeks and even months later (and with my first book, Playing with the Enemy, even years later) and track residual sales that trickle up in that market. When I examine major regions or cities I have not actively worked in, book sales are usually fair at best, and usually poor or nonexistent. Yes, in most respects it is really that basic. Now, I am launching my second book entitled Hey Buddy.

When authors ask me how I did so well with my first book, I tell them the truth: hard work, every day, for years. (And yes, I am employed full-time with my day job.) If you do not want to speak, sign books, lead tours, maintain an active website, blog, and take a very proactive role in selling your book, never complain about your sales numbers to your publisher or the small royalty check that comes with it. Instead, you should apologize to your publisher. In fact, why bother writing at all? So a publisher can spend thousands of dollars and 155 people can read your book? Sorry to be so blunt, but that is how I see things. And the excuses I hear back make me shake my head.

My publisher is Savas Beatie, and yes SB has a responsibility to do the best job it can to sell my book. And they do. Even though SB has a wonderful marketing director in Sarah Keeney, I consider myself the "Director of Global Sales" for each book that bears my name. No one cares more, knows more about it, or is more passionate about my book than me. Sarah has scores of titles to worry about. I have my book(s). That naturally makes me the best sales person or advocate for my work. And people LOVE meeting authors. People are several times more likely to buy a signed or inscribed book than an unsigned book sitting on a table without an author in sight. It is the personal connection with the author that helps sell a book.
So here is a basic plan (in addition to the other 100 things you can do, like a website, blog, etc.) to help increase sales for your book:

SPEAK. Groups large and small in every city and county in America are looking for speakers. Lions Club, Rotary, United Way, Junior League, Chamber of Commerce, a public library . . . they all meet at least monthly and are desperate for capable speakers and especially authors! Call and offer your services to anyone and everyone who meets in a group. Speak and sell your book afterward. I have hand-sold literally thousands more books at events like this than at any trade bookstore signing. When was the last time you addressed one of these groups? Please don't tell me you spoke to groups like this once or twice when the book came out, but are too busy now. Speak and sell!

MEET AND GREET-AND SELL. Set up book signings at your local bookstores or battlefield visitor center or museum shop, etc. (Savas Beatie helps a lot here) but DO NOT sit at a table like a bump on a log. MEET and GREET! I know most authors find this uncomfortable, but I roam through the bookstore talking to anyone and everyone who is browsing, sitting with a cup of coffee, etc. "Hi, my name is Gary Moore, and I am the author of Playing with the Enemy (holding up a copy.) Do you know anyone who likes baseball or World War II?" Do you? No? Why not?

This breaks the ice. I give them a card and ask them to stop by my table. I stand at the front door and greet shoppers as they come in. Like a politician looking for votes I have held up babies for photos, exchanged business cards with strangers, and worked hard to build a relationship with everyone I meet. What else would you expect from the Director of Global Sales who also happens to be the author? Do some people brush past without speaking or grimace in my direction? Sure. But who cares? Sell your work by selling yourself.

FOLLOW UP. After the event I send e-mails to everyone I met (including anywhere I spoke, or to anyone who has reviewed my book) and received contact info from. I thank them for their time. I tell them how much I enjoyed meeting them. I ask them (again) to write a review for my book and post it at Amazon and copy it to Barnesandnoble.com. I remind them why my book makes a good graduation, birthday, or Christmas gift. Many authors fail to realize that it is easier to sell a second or third book to someone who already has it, likes it, and who has met the author, than it is to sell the first copy to a total stranger. Capitalize on your relationships and sell multiple books to a single person.

VISIT BOOKSTORES. No matter where I travel I take some time to visit every bookstore or any place that might carry my book I can find. I go in and meet the manager and the staff. If they have my book on hand I sign their inventory. If they do not have my book, I explain to the manager why he or she should stock it, and ask them to let whoever buys for the store know why! Many times I have told managers to order up a case, call me, and I will come back when the books arrive and sell them. And then I do! Be proactive. Be assertive. Work for the success you want.

NEVER QUIT SELLING! Playing with the Enemy was released in hardcover in September 2006. Less than two years later it was released as a paperback. Today, in early 2011 it is still in print and still selling. In fact, last month we sold more copies than we did the same month a year earlier! We are now in our 7th paperback printing and there is a big reason why: I am still selling. That's right, after all these years I am still promoting, still speaking, still signing, still pressing the flesh, and still talking to anyone and everyone about my book. In fact, I did a mass mailing in my state a few months ago and one of the recipients asked me to come and speak at a major event. I sold more than 1,000 copies! (They ordered 700 copies initially, and the interest grew and they reordered another 300 after I left. I promised to return and sign them all.)

By the time you read this, my new book Hey Buddy will be released and the process begins again. But now thousands of bookstore owners, managers, staff, and individuals know me, know how hard I work, hopefully like my work, and will stock more books and buy more books.

NEVER QUIT SELLING! If you do, why would you expect others to do the work you won't?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just finished Hey Buddy in Kindle. I would have bought the hardcover but am on a long business trip and picked up six different books. As a longtime Holley (his real spelling) fan, I was blown away by Moore's rendition. This is not what I expected (not really sure what I expected) and I must admit that four chapters into it I was feeling so-so. But then it began to click and I was rediscovering Buddy all over again. And you are right, Mr. Moore. John Muellers Hey Buddy song and video is one of the best songs I have ever heard, period. I can't stop listening to it either, and the way he wove the names of Buddy's songs into the lyrics is rather magical.

The plane info is interesting. I always thought they went straight into the ground belly down because they did not know they were going down instead of up. The spin theory makes complete sense given how the aircraft hit the ground and tumbled, and especially at speed. How sad, though. That means those young men knew for what must have been an eternity to them that they were going to die.

Congrats on a good book that brought me to tears in a few places. Now I need to visit that cornfield, too. But I live in Florida so that might be hard.

Eric Levy