Articles tagged "book sales"

How Can I Sell More Books?

stacked_books_270pxOne of my favorite parts of my job is speaking with independent authors and listening to the challenges they face on their paths to success.  One of the most common questions during these discussions is how can I sell more books? As my colleagues and I began hearing it more regularly, we began asking ourselves how can we help them sell more books?

To answer this question, we asked 4,000 of Lulu’s best-selling authors to share the best practices that they’ve learned on their path to book marketing and sales success. Both the eagerness with which the authors replied to our request and what their responses revealed were eye-opening.

There are enough tips and tricks to fill 35 pages (download the whole report here), which the Lulu team has arranged into three intuitive and easy-to-digest sections: Know your Audience; Know your Book; and Know your Plan. The free guide also includes a section called Steal these Resources, wherein we give you access to valuable tools that can help you sell more books.

In the interest of helping self-published authors everywhere make the most of the holiday sales season, I want to share three of the most compelling insights and pieces of advice we gathered from Lulu authors.

1. The most important step towards effectively marketing your product – whether it’s a book or a business or a lemonade stand – is understanding your audience. Nearly 60 percent of the authors we surveyed attributed their success to their book’s subject matter being targeted to a specific audience’s needs. The key questions Lulu authors answered about their target markets are: What is my audience interested in? Where do they spend time online and in the real world? How do they already satisfy their need for content similar to mine (e.g., blogs, magazines, social communities, events, video, etc.)? What can my book offer them that’s not available anywhere else? Good and full answers to these questions form the foundation of for what’s next.

2. Know what attributes of your book will make it stand out and what marketing activities will best highlight these strengths to help drive sales. To help you understand these steps, we asked our authors what made a difference for them. Here’s how authors ranked specific items and the frequency with which they said they were important:

  • The book’s title, topic and audience (ties back to #1 above)
  • Driving awareness and sales through word-of-mouth
  • Having both print and ebook versions available
  • Producing a high quality printed book with a great cover design
  • Having customer reviews available for buyers to peruse

3. It doesn’t take as much time or money as you think. More than three-quarters of Lulu’s most successful authors dedicated 10 hours or less to the marketing of their book each week. And if you think that sounds like a lot of time, more than 60 percent of them spent five hours or less. That’s just an hour a day spent on marketing that led to the right outcome. And here’s even better news: 65 percent invested less than $500 in marketing their book, while another 7 percent spent nothing at all. Where do they invest their marketing dollars? It goes mainly to advertising, website management, promotional copies, and events. For a detailed breakout of how authors spent their advertising budgets, you’ll want to have a look at page 25 of the guide.

The full guide, “Marketing Your Book for Holiday Sales,” is available for free at success.lulu.com. I invite you to download your copy now Happy selling!

12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 4 – Beyond the Lulu Author Experience

Distribution channels for authors, both traditionally published and self-published, are changing. With the closing of many large brick-and-mortar booksellers, the most notable of which was the exit of Borders, all publishers are reevaluating their distribution strategy. In August 2013, Bowker released study findings citing a 5% increase in online book sales in the U.S., up to 44% of total book sales compared to 39% in 2011.

What does this mean for you? Focus on your audience and the best distribution strategy for them. If you can reach them via your own existing channels or easy-to-find networks and communities, selling to them on Lulu.com’s marketplace can be a strong component of your distribution strategy. If you need to target a broader audience that seeks content all over the Internet and in stores, you may want to expand to additional distribution channels.

Another more recent survey of book buyers’ perceptions may be helpful. The eBook formatting fairies did a survey of readers in August 2013 ( http://e-bookformattingfairies.blogspot.com/2013_08_01_ archive.html ) that revealed fantastic insights into how readers perceive books and authors. We’ve compiled a few highlights of their findings below.

To view larger image or download the entire guide, click here

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12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 3 – Know Where Your Audience Shops

In the book business, figuring out where people shop and how to get books to those places is called a distribution strategy.

There’s more to a distribution strategy than just bookstores. Some authors leverage their professional connections to make sales. Others teach classes and sell their books to students. And still others sell their books through churches or partner with niche websites.

There are numerous ways to distribute your book, and it takes some trial and error to find the right distribution channels. Every book is different, but we wanted to see if there was a pattern in where authors sold their books. Here’s where our best-selling authors sold their books:

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12 Tips for Marketing and Sales Success: Tip 2 – Finding and Building Your Audience

Now that you know the importance of identifying your target audience, it’s time to go out and get them. We asked successful authors how they found the audience for their book.

Here’s what they said:

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Most authors wrote for audiences they either consider themselves to be a part of or whose needs and shopping behaviors they were already familiar with. This may have made the process of determining how to reach their audience easier because they had an idea of which marketing channels would effectively grow their reader base. Is this also true for you? For example, if your book is on health and fitness and you have identified your audience as other like-minded fitness enthusiasts, you may already know several websites they may regularly visit to learn about fitness and make related purchases.

If you’re writing for an audience you don’t know that well, you’re not alone! Nearly a third of authors conducted research to find out what made their audience tick and how to find them. They used pre-existing professional networks, organizations or online communities to reach readers that would respond to their content.

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eBooks gaining ground but, printed books remain number one

Courtesy of Typedesk.com

When eBooks really started to take off around three years ago, their success was accompanied by the typical doomy, gloomy apocalyptic hand-wringing about the future of the printed book. The thinking then was that every winner has to have a loser, and with a winner this big (British sales for consumer eBook fiction and non-fiction were up 366% in 2011!!) a big dive was predicted. It’s funny to think, just three years down the line, that people were sure the printed book was on the way out. Perhaps it was just a testament to the popularity and exciting potential of eBook technology, perhaps it was something closer to a silly panic. Either way, the numbers from last year seem to point to a happy, mutually beneficial coexistence, which is good news for all parties involved.

According to Britain’s Publisher’s Association, total book sales rose 4% last fiscal year, and while print still makes up the majority of sales, its small 1% sales slip was more than made up for by a 66% gain in the digital realm. As The Telegraph points out, that number is way down from the previous year’s 366% surge. “There is an inevitable slowdown going on,” said [Richard] Mollet [chief executive of the Publisher's association]. “You expect that with any new technology but there is still very healthy growth.”

It seems like this type of evening out is to be expected. Not only that, it’s probably a healthy sign that eBooks are becoming less gimmicky and finding their way into normalized reading culture. As Gaby Wood points out, “Digital books are a complement to, not a replacement for, physical books. Some publishers now offer a hardback with an eBook as a package, since an eBook is easier to carry around but a hardback is what you want to own, and have on your shelf.” And sales data is starting to reflect this cooperative nature in comforting ways. When print publishers don’t have to worry about another source of lost funds (the fabled flight to eBooks!) and bibliophiles are growing more and more aware of the advantages both formats hold, we the readers (and we the customers!) win.

Living in a DRM-Free World

Digital Rights Management, the software that helped protect the copyright of books, but turned out to be a rather large hindrance to many readers, is beginning to go the way of the Dodo. More and more businesses that sell eBooks are taking the plunge and ditching DRM (including Lulu). But has the loss of this security measure affected sales? Has the eBook market been flooded with pirated copies of books that drag down the market and result in losses in profit to authors and publishers? In short, no.

Tor Books, the high-profile science-fiction publisher dropped DRM last April, and they have seen “no discernible increase in piracy on any of our titles, despite them being DRM-free for nearly a year,” according to their editorial director, Julie Crisp.

Consumers of eBooks have long been in favor of getting rid of DRM. It has made a hassle out of switching eBooks from one reader to another, and hindered the reading experience of readers who have paid to read their favorite authors.

Authors as well have applauded the move away from DRM. However, some larger publishers believe that DRM-free copies of their books published in other territories will find their way back to their own market, thus increasing the likelihood of digital piracy. Still, Tor’s report that there hasn’t been any discernible change in sales and readership is proof that DRM didn’t do much to protect authors.

“The move has been a hugely positive one for us, it’s helped establish Tor and Tor UK as an imprint that listens to its readers and authors when they approach us with a mutual concern — and for that we’ve gained an amazing amount of support and loyalty from the community,” Crisp reported.

When it comes to independent publishing, DRM has long been considered something that was once thought necessary, but is no longer needed, especially in a reading atmosphere that so proudly supports its writers.  Already, video games and music have begun to move away from these protections, as well.

What will be interesting is to see is if anyone will stick to DRM in the next few years. How have you felt as a Lulu author in a DRM-free world? What other minor changes in the publishing model would you like to see happen over the next few years?

Should you just give it away?

What’s better than free?

It might seem irrational, but one of the best ways that authors have found to gain popularity and profitability for their eBooks has been to, well, give them away. Authors have found that dropping the price of their books to $0, at least for a short time, leads to dramatically better sales when they do raise the price.

[Recommended Reading: How Free Books Build Your Brand as an Author and Authority]

Speaking on The Self Publishing Podcast, independent author David Wright found that this type of promotion works, especially with writers who work in genre fiction. “Free downloads drive sales,” he said. “Especially with the serialized fiction model, where if our readers get our first episode for free, they want to read on, so they buy the next episode or the full season.”

[Recommended Reading: How To Serialize with Lulu]

Dropping the price of your eBook can help raise your sales rank and visibility, while, at the same time, promoting other books you’ve written. Of course, the lost revenue can sting a bit, but who knows if readers would have taken the plunge on your book if you hadn’t taken the cost-free promotional plunge?

But is a free promotion right for you? For serialized fiction, the answer is yes. Get readers hooked, and then get them to buy the rest of your series or your other titles. For experts and speakers, the answer is also yes. You want to spread your brand and name, and an eBook is even better than just giving out your card. Use your eBook mainly as a promotional tool — not a revenue stream.

Here’s who this promotion might not work for: writers of long, literary fiction who depend on sales to make up for some of the painstaking work that went into their novel. It might also not work for historians, who also put in a tremendous amount of time and energy and whose specialized knowledge has a place in the marketplace and should be able to find a readership despite its cost.

Either way — it always helpful to experiment with different marketing tools. Dropping your price to zero might feel weird, but the eventual reward could be huge. If it doesn’t work out anyway, it’s just as easy to start charging more for your book, and go back to the drawing (or writing) board.

Have you tried this technique? What was your experience?