New authors aren’t always prepared for what comes after writing a book. Many want to believe their writing is so compelling that people will be clamoring over one another in bookstores to buy a copy. Unfortunately, book sales never come that easy for anyone. 

It is hard to sell a book if you haven’t correctly identified your target audience and marketed to them appropriately. Authors also face challenges with book sales if the book is poorly priced or its cover isn’t appealing. To profitably sell books, publishers must thoughtfully address these aspects. 

In this post, I’ll explain the most important parts of selling books. Keep reading to learn what you need to know to succeed as a published author. 

Selling Books via Publishing House vs. Self-Publishing

The first choice to make as an author is whether you want to self-publish and sell your book yourself or go the more traditional route and use a publishing house. 

A publishing house offers a formal process for churning out an author’s work to the public. All your needs are taken care of, as you’re provided with a team of professionals to focus on designing, marketing, selling, and more. 

Many publishing houses work directly with literary agents rather than the authors themselves, though direct solicitation is still an option. 

Regardless of your choice, should your manuscript catch their eye, it takes additional time to perform a final edit, create a proper marketing strategy, and put your book on the shelves. Unfortunately, the process is fairly time-consuming, as it can take years before your book is available for sale. 

In contrast, self-publishing gives authors full control over how their creative work is published and distributed. 

Various self-publishing platforms are available, which have become a much more common option for many freelance writers. While some feel it may cause difficulties in building relationships with publishing houses in the future, self-publishing comes with many advantages. 

At the same time, however, self-publishing can be an overwhelming task if you’re not prepared. You’ll be forced to take on more challenges yourself, yet it’s not impossible to be successful this way.

Pricing Your Books

Finding the “Goldilocks” price point for your book can be a delicate balance. This magic number varies depending on whether you print physical copies of your books or publish them electronically. Genre and page count also affects the price. 

When determining how much to charge for your book, consider and compare books similar to yours to gauge what the public is willing to spend.  

Marketing Your Books

Marketing is more of a social game these days. To conquer the digital marketing scene, you must be a leader and create a movement. Authors must assemble, connect, and interact with a “tribe” of readers with a common goal. 

Before you sell one million copies of your book, you must first sell one. One copy to one person who knows and trusts you. 

If that person loves and is excited enough about your book to tell a bunch of friends about it, because it benefits them, not you, then you begin to grow a tribe. Leadership in marketing provides the platform on which people can spread ideas they deem successful and valuable. If your book starts gaining attention this way, you’re on track.

However, if your book can’t invigorate a tribe to spread your message, and your services don’t spark enthusiasm amongst people, then you may want to consider quitting what you’re doing and beginning again.

In general, spending money on advertising and marketing tools on social media isn’t enough to make books successful. For these to work to your advantage, successful books usually inspire genuine emotion in people, which is created through great work.

Audience, Audience, Audience 

In real estate, the adage denoting success is “Location. Location. Location.” When it comes to selling books, it’s “Audience. Audience. Audience.” 

Finding the right audience of potential buyers to target your book is critical if you hope to have a chance against the competition. This requires research to identify target readers in your genre and promote your book in a relevant and relatable context. More often than not, the audience you get may not be what you expected, so take care to avoid assumptions about who is or is not a part of this group. 

Similarly, refrain from viewing “everybody” as the target audience.

Once you’ve determined who your audience is, it’s also important to reach out and engage them. You might try to generate discussion by posting sections from your book or relating themes in your writing to subjects that are meaningful in the lives of your audience. Keep in mind that not all your posts need to be related to your publication. 

In fact, it’s typically best to share some engaging non-book content from time to time. 

Cover Design Sells Books

It has been well researched and documented that flashy, alluring book covers sell more copies of books than anything else. This certainly places a curious undertone upon “don’t judge a book by its cover,” as this is precisely what potential readers do. 

Nonetheless, many authors hold back in cover design, yet only to their own demise. 

If you’re not so much a graphic designer as you are a wordsmith, then you’ll want to consider hiring a professional cover artist for this task. It’s important not to cut corners when it comes to this aspect of book sales, as it can make or break your book, regardless of its potential to be the next bestseller.  

Final Thoughts

Authors are faced with numerous challenges when it comes to selling their books, with the most important decisions determining how you publish and market your book and to whom. Success with these considerations can help your book launch into the world with the highest chance of reaching a wide audience.

Whether you publish physical books or ebooks, take strides to ensure your book cover is captivating. Also, be sure to identify your target audience and cater to them appropriately to build a tribe of fans that will help promote and sell your book to others.

Categories: Publishing

Ol Adams

Letter Review is currently edited by Ol Adams, who is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing, casual academic, and guest lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Ol Adams has had short stories published in leading literary journals such as Overland, Southerly, Seizure, and TEXT. Ol has had novels long listed for major awards such as the KYDUMA, has received government funding to produce plays from Create NSW and screenplays from Screen NSW, and has performed / produced professional work at major theatrical venues such as the Sydney Opera House.