Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sixteen ways to sell out... your books

When my book Digital Video Secrets was published, I decided to keep promoting the book until the first print run sold out. That was three years ago. This summer we made it. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

1. Get 25 Amazon reviews as quickly as possible. It is OK to ask people directly. I usually say something like, "Please review the book and give it your honest review." I had to ask about 50 people to get the first 12 reviews of Digital Video Secrets.

2. Make a web page for your book. It can be as simple as a Google page. Include a brightly colored Buy Now button on the page. Make it easy for people to click the Buy Now button and buy your book.

3. Set aside a regular time to work on promotion. Perhaps one or two hours each day, or one or two days a week, whatever schedule works for you. Otherwise promotion can (will) interfere with your writing. Book promoting is an infinite series of possible tasks. Setting aside a time for promotion is a way to limit the job and keep it from taking over your life.

4. Search for bloggers in your field, and contact them. You might offer to write for them as a guest blogger. Start following discussions and leaving comments on their websites. Look for mid-level bloggers as opposed to superstar bloggers. The superstars are often too hard to reach. Start an Excel spreadsheet with the blogger's names, URLs, and a note about the content and popularity of their blogs. Keep going until you can identify the best 20 or 30 mid-level bloggers in your field -- and the next 100 - 200 with smaller followings. Find 5 new ones a day and within a month you will have over 100.

5. Restrict your social media promotion to the one or two programs that you are comfortable with. Don't be seduced into using a program you don't like because someone says it's good for promotion. For example, I don't really understand or feel comfortable with twitter, so I have not used it to promote my own books.

6.Social media promotion is really about having conversations with people. Use things like blog comments, email, Facebook, and LinkdedIn to start conversations with interesting people and organizations that you contacted when you were researching and writing the book. Send a few of them copies of the book. Ask them for Amazon reviews. Ask them to review the book on their blogs, and mention the book on their blog, Facebook or LinkedIn accounts.

7. Offer to speak at organizations, seminars and events that are related to the topic of the book. The goal is not to sell books. It is to start stimulating conversations with people who have an interest in the subject of your book. (This is tricky. It can be expensive and time consuming for little apparent return.)

8. Offer to speak to classes at Universities. Again, the objective is not to sell books but to start stimulating conversations with interesting people. The book sales will happen if enough conversations get going.

9. Post a downloadable sample of the book online, linked to a Sample button. Perhaps the first 10 or 20% of the book. At the end of the sample, put a link to buy the book. Kindle is great for this.

10. The first sentence of your sample should capture the reader. By the middle of the first page, the reader should be entangled in the story you are telling. Don't be afraid to use your best anecdotes in the sample. Give the reader one potato chip, or three! (H/T Jon Franklin)

11. Look for organizations that might buy the book in truckloads. Perhaps a nonprofit, or a corporation with a compelling interest in the subject of your book. Offer to sell them 5,000 copies or 10,000 copies at a reduced price that they can give away as promotional items. If they really like the book, they might pay for publicity and a speaking tour. You will be their captive author and star.

12. Look for the most active forums in the field. One or two will stand out above all the rest. On these forums you will find respected professionals (like yourself) who are commenting and discussing critical issues every day. Forums tend to be more oriented to problem solving and advice. Get involved and offer your hard-earned expertise in the subject that the book covers.

13. If you do not already have a detailed audience description, I'd take a day or two to write one. When you know exactly who you are trying to reach, the job of finding and reaching them becomes much easier.

14. Create a 5-7 word description of your book, but no more than 7. Less is better. The reason is to make it really easy for people to copy the description and a link to the book and forward the whole thing via twitter. My son tells me that many RSS feeds only show the first 7 words of a title or sentence. Make it EASY for people to copy and forward the description and link. The title and subtitle as it exists right now might be all you need.

15. Put a link to the book in the signature line of your email address. Include that link and the short 5-7 word description in every email, comment, and communication. Like this:

Tony Levelle
email: info[at]tonylevelle[dot]com
Digital Video Secrets The basics distilled into one essential guide.

16. Do radio shows. Buy a national directory of radio shows. Call the producers and offer to be interviewed. Take as many gigs as you can get, including those in small regional markets. The best shows for selling books are the hour-long interviews, but three minute clips are excellent. Remember, you never know who is listening. One person in the radio audience could mention book to the right someone, and make a huge difference. When an Internet radio show wants to interview you, their audience is--by definition--your niche audience.

Hope this helps. As always, feel free to comment (good or bad) and to contact me directly.

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