Why Isn't My Book Selling?
Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a book marketing and media relations expert whose company has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Visit AME.View all articles by Penny Sansevieri
Over the past several days I've fielded
a number of calls from authors frustrated with their progress.
"Nothing is happening," "Am I doing this right?"
and "My book isn't selling" are some of the biggest
complaints I hear when authors are marketing on their own. Especially
now, when we feel the pressure to make every marketing effort count,
marketing effectively is becoming more of a concern. Authors like to
blame it on the downturned economy, but the truth is, books are a low
dollar item and likely to sell better over the holidays than the
spiffy new iPhone. So here's a little reality check, mixed with some
inspiration and a few ideas to hopefully kick-start your momentum!
1) Goals: it's good to have them, but make sure they are realistic. If you're not sure, ask someone who can be objective. (We're here to help, email us at email@example.com if you have nowhere else to turn for an honest answer). Yesterday I was speaking to an author who was really discouraged she hadn't met her sales goal for the year. She had set herself a goal of selling 20,000 books. Now that's a great number to aspire to, but not a realistic figure. Why? Because it was her first book, because she self-published it and because she didn't have a distributor in place and didn't have a platform. All of these things are factors to consider when setting these types of goals. What's more realistic? Well, it depends on your market, but 2,000 to 5,000 - especially if you're starting out - is a much better target. Keep in mind, though, that if your book has limited distribution, this number could drop drastically.
2) What's your plan? While setting goals is important, it's equally important to have mini-goals or milestones that you can reach and check off your list. I outline my big goal, let's say it's finding a traditional publisher for my book, and then I outline the hundreds of mini-goals I need to reach before I can even be considered by a mainstream house. When you work your goal-setting this way, it will feel like you are accomplishing things because you are. So often the larger scope of what we do is comprised of micro-efforts, things that might go unnoticed and unseen if you don't write them down or somehow keep a log of them. In all the years I've worked in marketing and publicity, the single most discouraging thing is when you do a million pieces of invisible work and don't keep track of it. Make a roadmap: you would never drive from San Diego to New York and not have a map. Much like a trip from West to East, you'll need a map to keep you on track. It doesn't have to be formal, just a list of things you want to accomplish today, this week, this month and the next six months. Keeping yourself on track will keep you on the right road; if not you could end up being someplace you never planned on. Like Peoria.
3) Am I doing the right thing? No one markets well in a vacuum, so if you have questions, get answers from someone you trust. You might be doing all the right things, but it might just be a matter of timing, patience, effort, and oh, did I mention patience? The important thing is to ask someone in the industry and someone who will give you honest feedback without trying to sell you their stuff.
4) Brainstorm and get creative: again, no one works well in isolation so get out there and brainstorm with people who are in a similar situation. If that's not possible, then start attending classes whether in person or teleclasses (we offer these, they're totally free: firstname.lastname@example.org). The point is, get out there and start those creative juices flowing or just sit with a speaker you like and get inspired. Re-ignite your campaign.
5) Reevaluate: if you keep hitting a brick wall, it's time to reevaluate your marketing. Are you hitting the right targets? Are you going after your niche market or are you shooting too wide? Are you spending time and money on things that aren't leveraging results? If so, ask yourself, why? Are you doing it because everyone else in your writing group is? Ask yourself some critical questions.
6) Stuff only works if you do a lot of it: whatever you focus on you should plan to do it consistently. If you blog, blog consistently. Radio? Same thing. Get yourself in a social networking site then be social. Don't "dabble" - someone once told me they've dabbled in this and that. Trust me, dabbling doesn't work. Diving headlong into marketing does.
7) Put a lot of lines in the water: I don't fish so I'm not sure where that analogy came from, but you get the idea. Put a lot of stuff out there. Don't just blog and expect that to be your singular source of marketing. Blog, social network, do radio if it's appropriate to your book, do talks, book events, network, and go to conferences.
8) If you do nothing, expect nothing: your book is not the field of dreams, if you write it people won't just beat a path to your door. Get yourself out there, do whatever you need to market the book. Sending postcards to your mailing list might get you a few "Hey, great to hear from you" emails but it won't sell books. Surprisingly enough, most authors don't sell but a few books to their immediate social circle. Break out of that circle. Mom can only buy so many of your books. I queried this on my Facebook page earlier and someone responded by saying that she's frustrated that her clients don't market the books they publish. Hmmmm.
9) Realism will keep you sane: the truth is that unless you get a ticket to her show, you'll probably never meet Oprah. That's ok. There are a million other things you can do instead of sitting by the phone waiting for her to call. Realism will not only keep you sane, it'll keep you on target. Having dreams is a great thing, everyone should have a dream, but realism will keep you from being discouraged and keep your marketing momentum on track.
10) Don't throw money at something just to feel like you're doing something: throwing money at a problem isn't always a good thing, in fact, sometimes it's the worst thing. If you're going to invest in your marketing (and you should), make sure you're investing your money wisely. There are great deals out there, but some of them are a waste of your time and certainly, your money. Make investments wisely. I've known authors to blow through a $5,000 marketing budget $99 at a time and still have nothing to show for their efforts. Also, while it's tempting and easy to do, don't place ads. Ads (especially online) don't work. Media blasts aren't recommended either. It's tempting, I know. Blasting thousands of media at one time with your message should result in something, right? Not always. Be smart with your marketing dollars. If you're blasting the media, ask to see the media targets first. You don't want to be pitching your romance novel to Car and Driver.
So what's the solution to all of this? Here are some guidelines to help you navigate this marketing and pr path:
1) Become part of the conversation, wherever that conversation exists. If your book is a New Age topic, go to web sites, blogs, and even consider attending some conferences. If you're following blogs, comment on those blogs, get to know the big bloggers out there. If you have a social networking site, work it, make friends, comment, be helpful.
2) Don't get into the Internet with the idea you'll make a lot of money. Get online and be helpful, the money will follow. If you do it in reverse, you'll have a very short lived time online. Offer tips, link to other blogs or web sites you find helpful. Offer guidance, insight, wisdom, inspiration, whatever works for your market.
3) Want to sell books? Then go for exposure. Repeat after me: marketing and pr doesn't sell books - it gets you exposure. Exposure gets you an audience and an audience gets you book sales. Whatever effort you're going to put into your book, understand it's for the exposure, not for sales. Much like point #2, if you attack your marketing with the idea of selling books, you'll be disappointed. If you tackle it with the idea of gaining exposure, you'll be pleasantly surprised and it's likely that book sales will follow.
4) When you make up your list of things to do to market your book, ask yourself what can give you the best exposure. That's one of the reasons I love the Internet, because the exposure is limitless. Don't go for flash in the pan marketing ideas, go for substance.
5) Having 35 social networking accounts is only a good thing when you use them all. People ask me how many social networking pages should they have, I say: how many can you manage? If you can't keep up 35 pages then start with one and go from there. Better to have one very active page than a bunch of pages that are blank.
6) Do one to five things a day to market yourself and your book. Keep on track with your marketing efforts and stay in the marketing "zone" by crafting a list that lets you chip away at your goals, one goal at a time.
7) Please, please, please get a web site. It's your 24/7 sales tool and should be one of the first things on your list of must-do marketing tasks.
8) Get help from a professional you trust. I know you're loving this "going alone" thing, but let's face it, at some point it might make sense to bring in a professional who can help you, someone you trust who will give you a straight answer and good, solid advice. Stay away from anyone offering guarantees in sales. This is a huge red flag, no one can predict this, nor can anyone predict a bestseller.
The more you can approach your marketing plan with a plan, a dash of realistic expectations and a lot of hard work, the more successful you'll be. The truth is there are hundreds of thousands of books that get published each year that end up dying a quiet death due to lack of focus, goals, and exposure. Get yourself on a path, and then find a manageable plan that will work with you, not against you!
(Originally published at Author Marketing Experts' blog and reprinted with permission of the author, Penny Sansevieri).