The art of selling is one of the most underrated ones out there, for you could write the best book in the world but it would not sell itself.
At the end of the day a book is but a product, the demand for which you have to create. You, the author, believes that it is a story that needs to be told, but it is equally essential for your audience to believe that it is a story they need to know.
Additionally, yours is not the only good book out there – there are upcoming books, the already trending books, and the classics too. The competition just looks overwhelming, but success is not just a case of chance; it is essential to recognize the immense amount of hard work that goes into selling a book.
So how do you make your novel the next big thing? Here are a few pointers curated by bestselling novelist Kevin Missal that he religiously follows to make sure his books get the widest possible reach.
- Know thy audience –
Your target audience determines your market strategy.
So, what is the demographic you plan to cater to? In other words, who are you writing your book for? What genres of books do they usually read and what genre is currently popular in that segment? Or, conversely, the type of book you’re writing or want to write is mostly read by which age group? These are all questions you need to have answers to. Having a clear demographic in mind and knowing all about it makes it easier to not just market but also write a book that satisfies its audience. For example, the last few years saw a wave of mythological fiction sweep through the bookstores. But even within this wave there were books for children, teens and adults with an extremely diverse treatment of the myths they drew from.
- Calibrate your price as per your readers –
You could write a book – no matter how great – but if I couldn’t pay for it, I wouldn’t buy it.
A book needs to be priced according to its target readers. Executives over the age of 30 can afford pricey hardbacks, but young adults and students would not pay as much. The author’s brand name matters as well. Bestselling authors like Dan Brown or Amish have a reputation that can sell their future books. But a new author’s work is an experiment for the reader hence they won’t be willing to spend as much on a new book. Also, India is a price sensitive market due to lack of properly enforced anti-piracy laws. Prices for non-fiction works can go till ₹599 while works such as mythological fiction aimed at people below 30 should preferably be priced ₹299 or less, at least initially. Kevin’s new book Narsimha with Harper Collins, for example, will cost ₹199. Another good example of using pricing to one’s advantage is Chetan Bhagat’s novels, which initially were sold at prices as low as ₹95.
- Invest in your book cover –
Never judge a book by its cover is a great advice that nobody follows. The truth is that what looks good, sells more. In fact, bookstore keepers tend to keep the better-looking books in the more visible parts of the store. Kevin credits the success of the first Kalki novel to excellent cover design, among other things.
Moreover, the cover and blurb make the first impression of your book – not everyone is going to go online and read reviews before buying it. And honestly, all of us, at some point, have wanted to buy a book just because it would look great on the shelf. Like, have you seen the Harry Potter house color themed books? The blurb is an equally important element. It shows your readers what experience they are in for. Effective ones are usually limited to 200 words.
Investing in a book cover is essential, even if it costs a lot more than you imagined. An innovative aesthetically appealing book cover has led me to buy many a regrettable book. We are vain people living in a very vain world.
- Promotions – Social Media, Book Trailers and the power of book bloggers
Social media promotion almost never leads to direct sales. However, it is a powerful tool that can help generate interest about your book. Marketing on social media requires planning, and should begin well before the actual publication of your book. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great platforms to promote the cover, posters and trailers of your book. Keep in mind that the quality of your posts and ads has to be top notch – a poor quality post translates to poor quality book in the mind of your potential reader. So, invest in the visuals that surround your book – posters, ads, book trailers, character sketches, special edition covers, etc. Each of the character sketches for Kevin’s upcoming novel Narsimha took more than a fortnight to make. Another plus point of these platforms is that they provide a place for you to interact with your readers – which is essential to build a loyal fanbase. Thirdly, recognize the power of book bloggers – send them copies of your book to review and do interviews for their page or channel if you can. They have their own followers who trust their recommendations more than any advertisement.
- Retail, E-tail and Touring –
E-commerce websites like Amazon are a major marketplace for books. Unlike Facebook ads, using Amazon’s advertising console can actually lead to direct sales if used wisely.
The good old brick and mortar bookstores still draw a lot of customers. A good technique is to ensure that stacks of your book are visible to the customers as they walk in. Stacks draw a lot more attention than a lone book on a crowded shelf. Your books should be available in the major bookstores of your target cities. Speaking of target cities, a book set in a major metropolis is likely to sell in a smaller city and vice versa. Another hack is to put bookmarks advertising your book inside the bestsellers sold in each store. It is advantageous to tour certain bookstores around the country and leave a few signed copies, especially if you have previous books with a fanbase. It is also an excellent opportunity to interact with bookstore owners who truly know the ground reality of book sales and are crucial to selling your work.
Marketing a book can be tiresome and definitely requires heavy investment. Learn to improvise along the way – marketing is also about personalization, so keep a good relationship with your fans as you build your base and involve them in creative promotional activities. This process involves a spillover of cash – but all of it pays huge dividends in the end, so don’t shy away from devising a good strategy and stick with it to succeed. As Robert Kiyosaki said, they call them bestselling authors and not best writing authors for a reason.