How to Increase Book Sales without “Selling”
Have you ever read a tweet or seen a Facebook update from an author who is literally begging for people to buy his or her book? Screaming “BUY MY BOOK!” on social media doesn’t help sell books. In fact, that tactic may not only get you unfollowed and unfriended, it can hurt your credibility.
So what is a good way to sell books? One of the best ways authors can increase book sales is by developing an effective author platform.
What is an Author Platform?
Just like a speaker’s podium or a performer’s stage, an author platform places authors in a position of high visibility. It is basically the number of people an author can influence at any given time. This includes blog subscribers, e-mail list members, Twitter followers, Facebook friends and Page likes, etc., plus offline connections, such as past attendees of an author’s speaking engagements and those who have attended book signings.
Why is an Author Platform important?
More books are being published today than any other point in history. Because traditional publishing is so expensive, editors and agents are looking for authors with a built-in audience to help assure enough sales to cover their costs. Self-published authors also need a means to get the word out about their work.
How does an author build a platform?
One of the easiest ways to build a platform is to select a topic of interest that is relevant to your readers and create online and offline content centered on that topic. Once you’ve determined your topic, the next steps are to position yourself as an expert in that field, build a community of those interested in that topic, and, ultimately, inform your audience about your products and services.
Build a relationship with your target audience, often referred to by the online marketing community as a “Tribe.” This group consists of readers and listeners who have chosen to follow you because you provide valuable information about a topic they are interested in learning more about.
Your “tribe” gets to know you through the content you provide. And as they get to know you, they begin to like you. Once they like you, they develop trust in you, and they will be far likely to do business with you (i.e. purchase your books, products and services) than they would a stranger. I call it the Know-Like-Trust strategy.
How do I find my “topic of interest”?
A topic of interest is basically the foundation upon which you build your platform. The topic you use to develop your platform should be something you’re knowledgeable about, passionate about, something that draws a large enough audience to be profitable, and something broad enough to provide opportunity to create a lot of content yet narrow enough not to be overwhelming. All those criteria can be discovered via thorough market research.
For example, my personal topic of interest is marketing for Christian writers, so I blog about that topic, create social media updates about it and give presentations on that topic. It is broad enough to provide a wealth of material but narrow enough to be of interest to a specific group of people—Christian writers who want to learn more about marketing.
If you’re a nonfiction writer, then choosing your topic of interest is easy. For novelists, it’s a bit trickier.
Ways novelists can discover a topic of interest to build a platform around
The following is a list of brain-storming starters to help you choose a topic of interest for building your author platform. You don’t have to use all of these—just find something that clicks with you and go from there.
- Theme or Life Issue—Most novels have a theme running through them and sometimes the story includes the struggle and solution of a specific life issue, such as addiction, marital problems, spiritual warfare, etc. This theme may not be in all of your books, but it should be something you have some credentials on. This type of topic is very common for nonfiction writers to build an author platform around.
- Setting/Culture/Historical Era—Periods and places are fascinating to learn about, and almost no matter where or when you set your novel, there will be a group of people who love it. There is a huge number of Civil War buffs, and those who are passionate about that time travel, read, listen and absorb everything they can about it. Creating content around information you’ve learned through researching your novel will attract this group, giving you a ready-made community in which to market your Civil War novels.
- Writing Craft—A lot of people have “Writing the Great American Novel” on their bucket list. Sharing what you’ve learned through training and experience is a great way to build a following. And when it’s time to promote a new book you’ve written, those whom you’ve helped will be first in line to buy it. Kathy is a great example of someone who has built an author platform by generously sharing information about the craft of writing and editing.
These are just a few ideas to help you discover your own platform foundation.
You have a topic of interest—now what?
Once you’ve picked your topic of interest, position yourself as an expert in that area through blogging, social media updates, videos, in-person presentation, podcasting and hosting webinars. The key is to keep your posts and profile updates relevant to your target audience and to always provide valuable, useful information about that topic. People are looking for solutions to problems, and when they realize you are providing the solutions they are seeking, they will flock to you. (Tip: Conduct market research to learn what problems they are seeking answers to.)
Develop a content marketing strategy that includes your blog, updates to relevant social media profiles, podcasting, informational videos and in-person presentations, and your author platform will begin to grow quickly. You may also wish to supplement your online marketing efforts through traditional media interviews, advertising and press releases.
Always direct traffic to your author website. Because social media and external blogging sites typically don’t grant you full control (read the terms of service), it’s vital to own your own domain and use your own website as your marketing hub.
Make sure your blog is embedded into your website in order to bring traffic to your site, rather than an external blogging platform. Then, when site visitors come to your site to learn more about the topic of interest, have a lead-capture system in place in order to add them to your email list. If you don’t have a system to collect emails of site visitors, then all the content creation efforts will have been in vain, because, if developed and used properly, an email list is the best sales tool an author can have.
An e-mail list is where the magic happens when it comes to online marketing. You can give subscribers exclusive content, unavailable anywhere else within your web presence. And, because your subscribers have literally given you permission to market to them by opting into your list, you can promote your books to them there.
To learn more about building an author platform, marketing with your blog and social media, capturing leads and using email to connect with your audience, visit Marketing For Christian Writers and subscribe to the blog, podcast or sign up for one of our free e-courses.
Linda Fulkerson has been involved with online marketing for over 15 years. She is the former director of digital services for the largest media firm in Central Texas and now owns her own digital services/marketing agency in Morrilton. Linda is a blog coach, digital marketing specialist, and award-winning photographer. She presents workshops on Blogging, Social Media and Marketing for writers and for small businesses.