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  • Writer's pictureTeresa Widdowson

How to Sell More Books

Updated: Mar 3

Piles of books

The easiest answer to the question of how to sell more books is to break down and open your wallet, and hire someone to do it for you. But that’s a hard pill for most independent self-publishing authors to swallow unless you expect to make a lot of money from publishing your book—maybe you’re hoping for paid speaking engagements or to sell your book to every employee in several large organizations? As the saying goes, you must be willing to spend money to make money.

But my books are fiction. Unless they become cult classics or best sellers, I doubt if I will ever be paid thousands of dollars to speak to large audiences or sell my book to hundreds of people at once. I have already admitted to myself that I will never be a Janet Evanovich or Lisa Gardner (Oh, universe, please prove me wrong!) It’s hard to justify giving someone any of my hard-earned money to get the word out about my book if I’m unsure I will ever reap enough royalties to pay that bill. In fact, what I really should have titled this blog is, How to Sell More Books Without Spending Any Money!

As a self-published author, reaching an audience of readers that is larger than just your friends and family is quite a challenge. There are a lot of articles and blogs online about how to sell more books and one of the first things that is generally recommended is that you create an email list and send out your announcement about your book with a direct link to where to buy it. Inside that email, you request they recommend your book to their friends and acquaintances, which hopefully, will create a type of snowball effect and eventually result in hundreds of new people finding, reading, and enjoying your books.

So, I did that. But you know what? People are busy. Not everyone is lucky enough to be retired like I am. A lot of people don’t have time to read. They’re too busy just trying to stay on top of everything going on in their lives. And I know it’s hard to believe, but not everyone enjoys reading. Or even if they do, not everyone enjoys reading fiction books. Some people prefer to read non-fiction books—historical novels, self-help books, autobiographies, etc. I have a dear friend that supports me in every way she can, but she simply does not enjoy reading fiction. And because of that, even though she loves me, she has yet to read either of my books.

If you read my previous blog, Plan Your Dive and Dive Your Plan, you know I’ve created a list of things to do before, during, and after a book launch to help my books make the biggest splash possible. However, so far, that splash has been more like a ripple. So, I made a decision. Hoping to ramp up the sales of MYND Control, I decided to celebrate its one-month anniversary by having a sale on the Kindle version of my first book, The RH Factor.

I’m sure you’re thinking, why have a sale on The RH Factor and not MYND Control? Here’s my logic. It’s usually easier to convince someone to take a chance on a book that many people have already read and loved. Since, The RH Factor was released over two years ago, it has a lot more reviews. And because of its good reviews, people will be willing to pick it up even though they’re unfamiliar with the author or book title, especially if it's on sale. And if they actually enjoy it, they may be willing to read another one by the same author even though its number of reviews may still be low. Sounds logical, yes?

Probably like most people, I often scour Amazon, Goodreads, and notes from readers at my public library, looking for books with a lot of excellent reviews. I’m a perfect example of why more people who are unfamiliar with my work never give it a chance. They’re not willing to read a book that doesn’t already have thousands of great reviews. I plan to take a page out of my own instruction booklet this year and change that behavior. Yes, I’m still going to read books by authors I already know and love, but I’m also going to go out of my way to read more books by self-published and little known authors. I’m excited about discovering new writers I love and am sure I will find some wonderful hidden gems.

There are other ways to sell more books as a self-published author without spending a lot of money. I have several book-signing events coming up in the next few months. These are something any author can request. Check with local community centers, coffee shops, or bookstores to gauge their interest. Or, in my case, since I set my book in the area in which I live, I contacted the actual businesses that I included in my novel. They were already familiar with me and my book because I previously asked their permission to use the names of their businesses in my story, and were happy to let me promote it at their establishment.

Another avenue to consider is local community organizations. Think book clubs, community centers, or even organizations that perhaps were formed because of interests or topics you touch on in your book. My first in-person event this year is a presentation to a local singles’ group. I’m really looking forward to it, and a little nervous to be honest. For forty-five minutes, I plan to talk about myself, my writing, and how I came up with the ideas for MYND Control. That’s a long time to keep an audience engaged. But I am excited. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope my audience will be able to tell that from my presentation.

After surfing the web for tips on how to sell more books without spending a lot (or any) money, I had to stop and ask myself a very basic question. Why do I write? Or maybe, more specifically, Why did I want to write a full-length novel in the first place? Why was that on my bucket list? My answer was, because I love to write and because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I never imagined I would sell more than a few books to friends and family. And frankly, after completing it, I never really imagined I would finish another one.

But I did. And now I’m working on my third one. I have so many ideas for future books that I have a hard time deciding what to focus on. And now, the reason I write is different. The core reason remains the same—I simply love it. But now I want to reach a larger audience. I genuinely believe there are a lot of readers in the world who would enjoy my books if they could only find them and be willing to take a chance on an author they didn’t already know. I realize I’m biased, but there it is.

So, if you’re looking for advice on how to sell more books, my recommendation is this—first, ask yourself why you wrote your book in the first place. Was it to sell a lot of them, or was it simply because you enjoy writing? Before you spend a lot of effort trying to sell more books, make sure it’s what you really want to do. It takes a lot of sweat, effort, and precious time to market yourself if you’re not willing to spend the money to have someone else do it for you.

I admit I’m still working on finding the right balance of time spent marketing and time spent writing. I want to sell more books, but I also don’t want to end up sounding like a used-car salesperson to all my friends and family. It’s a delicate balance that I hope I eventually figure out.

In the end, the trick of how to sell more books, like most everything in life, is finding the right balance between how much time you’re willing to spend on sales, versus how much time you’re willing to sacrifice from other areas of your life to do it. Even if you’re not a writer, finding a work-life balance can be challenging. Being successful is great, but being happy is more important.

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