Whether you’re self-published or you went with a traditional publisher, one of the most vexing and perplexing aspects of becoming an author is how to ensure your book sells.
While there are several ways to promote a book, when it comes down to it, there are three strategies you can count on to sell books: public speaking, generating bulk buys and word-of-mouth.
Before we get into these, I want to explain why social media and publicity are not on this list. Social media presence and publicity increase your visibility. They raise awareness of you, your brand and your book, and, yes, these efforts will generate some sales, but they do not necessarily cause book sales.
Just because you have a big social media following or get a lot of publicity through various media outlets does not automatically mean that throngs of followers or media audiences will go out and buy your book. Publishers have found this out the hard way by investing heavily in books by huge social media influencers that underperformed.
Let’s get to the three book sales strategies you can count on:
Strategy No. 1: Public Speaking
A public speaking gig puts you in front of an already-interested audience as an authority with a book. If you give a great talk, your audience will want to buy your book on the spot.
The fact that it’s a live event is a huge motivator to create a sense of urgency around buying your book, especially if you’re sticking around to autograph sold copies. Your autograph makes the book that much more special and appealing. To the consumer, a book bought at a talk is more than just a book; it’s a memento of a valued experience and tangible proof they met you. I had a client who sold more than 20,000 books in one year on public speaking alone.
With some extra logistics built in, this strategy can be employed in a socially distanced model as well.
Strategy No. 2: Generating Bulk Buys
Although this is arguably the most overlooked strategy, I think bulk book sales is the best one to focus on if you’re writing a book to grow your business.
If you’re a corporate consultant or trainer in a long sales cycle with an organization, this can be a major accelerator. You can offer to do a seminar for free, as long as they purchase copies of your book to distribute among their teams.
I had one client who used this strategy and sold over 5,000 books in less than three months. He took a three-tiered approach. A hundred books got the organization a lunch-and-learn; 250 a half-day, and 500+ earned them a full-day training. This grossed over $100,000 in book sales. But more importantly, it became a platform for him to show each organization the value of hiring him again.
This also works for those who are working in thought leadership. You could offer to do a keynote for free, but require that the organizer buy books for the audience. In many cases, this tactic can yield more cash (and new leads) than being paid for the keynote.
Strategy No. 3: Word-Of-Mouth
Old as publishing itself, I’ve found that word-of-mouth is the longest standing, surefire way to sell books. While it’s most powerful when recommendations come through people we know, it’s also the reason why book reviews are so important, both from notable sources, such as Publisher’s Weekly, and laypersons’ reviews on platforms such as Amazon.
Obviously, for word-of-mouth to do its best work, you have to get the book into people’s hands. This is where you can leverage the combined momentum generated by public speaking and bulk buys, as well as publicity and social media buzz to get more people talking about (and recommending) your book.
The Bottom Line is this:
While social media and publicity create heightened awareness, their ability to push book sales is hit or miss. The 3 failsafe methods you can count on to cause book sales are public speaking, generating bulk buys, and word-of-mouth.