You spent months writing your book, even longer editing it and finally, you felt it’s ready. You put your blood, sweat and probably even tears into these pages and now, you put it on amazon or any other store and no sales are coming. Your book is just sitting there buried under the thousands, if not millions, of other titles. How to change this? How to sell your books? Let’s find out.
Disclaimer! All the Amazon links in this article are affiliate links. Your purchase through them supports my efforts. All the products are just my recommendations. Feel free to choose different ones.
The customer’s perspective
First, before we get into how to sell your books, we need to make sure your store page is in the perfect condition. Remember, your book can have literal gold brick inside it, but it doesn’t matter if people won’t buy it in the first place. You need to make sure the process of people getting to your content is as easy as possible.
Step 1: Get an outsider to help
Get someone who had never heard of your book or seen your page and have them look at it. Don’t tell them it’s yours if possible. It would be good if this wasn’t your friend or family as they might notice it’s yours if you haven’t used a pen name. Look for someone who didn’t even know it’s your book. Companies do this with their products to get an unbiased opinion. It’s called blind testing. This is also the reason why you can’t do this yourself. Your opinion will always be biased. There is no way around it.
You can use your friends or family for this if you know they will be 100% honest with you and not be afraid of hurting your feelings. It’s also your job to accept criticism and not argue. We tend to go into self-defence mode whenever someone critiques our work. Get over it. You are stopping your growth if you decide to not accept the opinion of other people.
If you don’t have anyone who wouldn’t know you have published a book, try to look through forums or social media. Twitter has a thriving writer’s community. There are also hundreds of pages created specifically for writers. My favourite example is Scribophile, which I used for quite a while. You can find people there willing to help you with this problem or just generally help you with your book. Just make sure these people know what they are talking about as it’s easy to get a lot of misguided advice.
There are other websites and forums, just look for writer groups and you’ll find some.
Finally, try to make sure the people you picked enjoy your genre. That’s the audience you are trying to aim for anyway.
How to direct your “test subjects”
Now that you have people to look at your book, send them to the store page. Tell them you are looking to purchase this book, but you are unsure if you should. Ask them to look at it, to see if they would buy it. What puts them off? Are there things missing in the description that they need to know? What would they like more?
If you have more people, take some of them and show them several books with yours between them. If they don’t choose yours, find out why. What caught their eye the most about the other ones? Was it the cover? Perhaps they liked the title.
Important note: Always pick books with a similar amount of reviews, as people will gravitate towards the book with more and better reviews. The little stars at the bottom create an instant bias. This is something you can’t affect yet, so choose books that are in the same category.
If you feel brave, put in some higher rated ones and cover their ratings or rewrite them. If you are using chrome, you can do so easily by right-clicking the rating, selecting inspect and then pressing delete or just find the number and rewrite it. Then take a screenshot of the book. This change is only for your browser until you refresh the page. You can’t edit this for anyone else, so if you send them a link, they’ll see the original data. That’s why you have to take a screenshot.
Here are some examples of a quick edit. Again, right-click the review number and just rewrite it.
Step 2: Evaluate the criticism
Now that you have your notes and, hopefully, big enough test subject group, it is time to evaluate your data. I hope you followed my advice above and didn’t argue about people’s opinions. We need the least biased opinions as possible. Anyway, to the data.
Your notes should have a lot of different stuff in it. Some people might have not liked the cover, some title, some the blurp. Hopefully, you also asked them why that is. Divide your data into categories and see what needs the most improvement. If every single person said something negative about the cover, then it’s time to change it. If people didn’t find the description or the blurp interesting, it’s time to sit down and write a better one.
This process is pretty much straight-forward. Find the problems, which should be visible now, and fix them. but what I will emphasize on is, don’t be afraid of asking other people for help. If needed, pay for it. This is an investment. If your store page will look perfect, your money will return.
Your Book Cover is everything
If your test group from the previous part of this article noted your book cover was not good, that is the first thing you should fix. Your book has to be the best it can be.
The book cover is one of the most important things that sells your book. It is the thing that makes people go read the blurp and it is the first thing they see. Have you ever heard of the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Forget it! The sad truth is, when there are billions of books out there, it is literally impossible for a customer to choose your book or even give it a glance if your book cover isn’t good. Pay an artist to design a cover for you. Make sure they have a portfolio that you like and communicate with them the idea. You need to stand out to sell your books.
I will repeat this, pay someone with experience in this field. You’ve already done your job as a writer, now hire other people to do theirs. Self-publishing doesn’t mean you have to do everything yourself. Nine out ten times, this is the best choice you can make. There are artists with vast price differences. There is only one excuse to not spend some of your money on a good cover. That excuse is that you are also an artist that designs covers professionally for other people. In other cases, it’s time for an investment.
Description, the hook, the blurp
You now have your cover and made sure people notice your book among the others. They clicked on your page and what is the next thing they will do? They will read the description. This is where you sell your books to them.
I am 100% sure that book descriptions are the most read descriptions on Amazon. Think about it. You are about to spend money on something you are going to spend several hours on. It is also not a product you need, it is something you are choosing for your own pleasure or self-development. Why would you spend hours on something that might be about something you are not interested in?
So what do you need to have in your book description?
Firstly, the reader should find out what the book is about. Even though I will use fantasy books in this example, these rules should apply to all genres. This is where your elevator pitch comes in.
The elevator pitch
If you don’t know what an elevator pitch is, imagine you are in an elevator with someone and they ask you what your book is about. You should be able to describe the book to the person before the elevator reaches its destination and make them want to buy it. This usually means one or two sentences. A good example is comparing your book to more known titles.
For example, I’ll use Brandon Sanderson’s book Mistborn. Someone on Reddit used a fitting pitch: “It’s like Oceans Eleven in Mordor after Sauron’s been in power for 1000 years.” Intriguing, isn’t it? And it took just one sentence. Your elevator pitch is one of the most important things. Think it over in your head and find a way how to make it interesting.
After the elevator pitch, your customer should be intrigued enough to read the rest of the description. This is where a short description of your story should follow. In other words, this is where you sell your books. Here, you should describe here what the book is about. What are its goals and what is the promise?
With a fiction genre, this would be the setting of the book, who the main hero is and what is the conflict they will face. With other books, you want to describe what the book is about and what is the promise to the reader. What will the reader get by reading your book?
Keep the length of this short. 250 words should be pretty much the maximum unless your book is one of those epic novels with thousands of pages. Even then, don’t put in a chapter worth of words. Keep it short and precise. Go over your description several times. Ask other people to read it and what do they expect from the promise of it. Is it what you wanted to communicate? If not, it’s time to rewrite it.
This needs a lot of experimentation, but it is, once again, a very important thing. There are people whose job it is to write descriptions of products. That is because the description sells. Your book is a product as well. Give it the attention it needs and it will grow.
This is where your other stuff comes in. You can put in your some interesting stuff about you as an author or your achievements. Perhaps you won a writing award or your book did. This can tell the reader the book stands out in some way and it might be worth reading. Some people put their achievements as their elevator pitch, see any New York Times Bestsellers. I’d say use this only if it’s big enough to be the pitch itself.
If your book is a part of a series and you haven’t mentioned it in the description above, it is time to mention it here. Mention other books as well by name. Chances are, if people liked what they’ve read in your book, they might revisit your description and find more of your stuff. It’s the ideal place to sell more of your books.
This is pretty much everything you need for your book’s store page. At least from the things you can easily change or influence. The hardest one is coming up.
It wouldn’t be my article if I wasn’t talking about the importance of marketing. Since you’ve decided to go the self-publish route, it is up to you to sell your books. Publishers usually have a marketing department for this and hundreds of book stores where they display your book on a shelf for customers. In other words, they know how to reach the audience that will read your book. This is now your job.
As an author, you need to get your book in front of as many eyes as possible. You don’t even have to be one of the best writers out there if you have a sizable enough audience. But, on the other hand, you can be the best author in the world, but no one will know if no one is there to read your stuff. You need to create a following of any kind.
There are YouTubers that published their first drafts with hundreds of mistakes and even managed to use their own name a few times instead of the main character. Yet, their book sells more on amazon than some published titles. Just imagine how successful someone like this could be if they also put their effort into it. Luckily there are good examples as well.
A good example of a recently self-published author with a big audience is Shad Brooks, who has a pretty big youtube channel Shadiversity. A year ago, he published his very first book called The Shadow of The Conqueror. He advertised it pretty much mostly on his channel as far as I know and it’s been a giant success for him. There are over 800 reviews by the time I write this article. It is said that per 100 sales there are usually 1 or 2 reviews. Don’t get me wrong, Shad did a lot of things well with his book, but chances of such success would rarely even be there if he had no audience to begin with.
Where to get an audience?
There are dozens of ways for writers to gain an audience. This is pretty much the same as any other artist or what I wrote in this article, but let’s see some specific examples.
There are authors that use social media only to promote their books. On Facebook, you can post your book to many different groups that like the genre. This means book clubs, fan groups, self-development groups etc. I would recommend to not just spam here, but try to sell your books in some clever ways or perhaps just ask for honest reviews.
For example, Robert Bevan with his fantasy comedy series Critical Failures promoted most of his books on Facebook, where he created his own Facebook group after his books started gaining traction. Since not only his humour but also his personality spoke to people, he gained quite a sizable following. Nowadays, his books sell in hundreds if not thousands every time he releases one because he lets every follower know. He is very active with his community which creates loyal fans that happily support his work.
Twitter has a very healthy writer’s group as I mentioned before. People are happy to help you to promote your books and it’s generally a really nice community to be in. There are hashtags and writing prompts that make it easy to interact with people and show off your writing skills. It’s a place where you can gain a pretty sizable following by just doing what you like. If you got to this article through my Twitter writer account, let me know. It’s the most enjoyable place for me to interact.
Authors on Twitter use hashtags like #writerslift to promote their books or post passages to peak a reader’s interest. Whatever you do, don’t make your Twitter account just a spammy mess of ads to sell your books. Just be a normal person and interact there daily. Chances are you oftentimes forget why you started that account in the first place and just enjoy being there, just like I did.
There is actually a writing community on Instagram as well. People post passages, poems or general writings on their wall as pictures. You can build quite a following there and not be afraid someone will copy your writing, since it’s all images. There is also a community here called bookstagram, which is a good place for people to review your book.
Wattpad is a social media platform for storytellers. You can post your stories here and gain a following. Even though it got a bad reputation of just a place filled with bad fan fictions, Wattpad is still an amazing place to put your stories to. It is so popular, that some of the stories posted there became movies. There are small and big authors posting there. Some even use it for beta reading. They post their first draft, take the criticism and implement the changes into the final product.
Medium is very similar to Wattpad. There are stories published here that lately get published. Thanks to the copyright rules of the page, everything you publish here, you can later publish into your book without any problem. Another bonus of using this platform is that you also get money from people reading your story. This can be done if you pay a monthly fee. I use the free version as I’d rather gain an audience than money from it, but if you like the idea, go ahead. The price is not that high and it should return if your stories get some traction.
Even though not the biggest writing community, I saw some authors here post their story in parts and eventually making a book out of it. Through posting of the parts, they got people intrigued to read the final product. The community here seems to also be very active in writing reviews.
Book review blogs
There is a lot of blogs on the internet that are made by people with massive followings, who follow their every word. If you can get your book into their hands, you should have some fans come out of that. At a minimum, you will at least earn sales. This might definitely be an investment, but if you trust in your writing skills, it can be incredibly beneficial. The book review community is also very active on YouTube. Just write book review into the YouTube search and you’ll find a lot of channels for you.
Before you’ll talk to these people, remember, they are just people. No one is obliged to choose your book and some people might want money for the review. This is normal, it is their living and it is marketing for you. If a book reviewer talks about a book on a video that gets 100 000 views, that’s 100 000 potential customers you’ve reached with your purchase. If you are going to pay for a book review, feel free to make a contract for this. It will make both parties obliged to finish their end of the deal.
A lot of writers also have their own blogs where they post articles about their own books or things happening around their genre. Having your own blog not only serves as a great place to gain an audience, but it is also a great place to drive an audience towards. You can create mailing lists here, sell your books, post updates and some other stories that wouldn’t make it into your books. Some authors even promote their merch here. People might also want to find out more about you as a person, and this is the ideal place for them to do so. You can start a blog pretty cheaply. Mine costs 12 euro a year.
This is my least recommended thing, that’s why I put it at the very bottom. It definitely gets eyes on your product, but it is very easy to spend a lot of money on ads and see no or minimal return. Use ads only if you understand them, otherwise take the long route and build a community. You are a writer. By now, you should be okay with things taking some time.
Things that can boost your sales
You now know where to gain an audience, how your store page should look and what to expect. If you’ve already published your books, there are some bonus ways to make them stand out.
We are living in a busy age. A lot of people don’t find time to just sit down and read a book. On the other hand, a lot of people commute or find themselves doing tasks that don’t require a lot of brain activity. For these times, audiobooks are an amazing thing. I myself got into reading through audiobooks. Since I used to commute for 3 hours each day, I found myself with a lot of downtime. Audiobooks were the best thing I’ve ever decided to get myself into. They are so incredibly accessible, that I bought dozens if not hundreds of titles I would never buy otherwise because I simply didn’t have time to read them.
A good narrator can also elevate the experience of your book to a whole new level. There are narrators like Johnathan Sleep, Luke Daniels, Michael Kramer, Kate Reading, Steven Pacey and more who have an incredible range and are absolutely incredible narrators. Oftentimes I forgot the book was read by only one person.
If you can get your book narrated, do it. It’s one of the best investments you can make to boost your sales and get your book in front of a new audience.
From time to time, it is good to sell your books for an incredibly reduced price or even give them out for free. This puts the book in front of more people’s eyes and makes it easier to get reviews. The reviews are what helps you sell the book later. It is pretty much the most important metric on your book, so don’t be afraid to lose some potential money by reducing the price of your book from time to time or give out free copies for exchange for a review.
Make sure to let people know though, that their review should be an honest one. Not only it looks weird when your book is all 5 stars with “the best book I’ve ever read!!!!!!” splattered over it, but it also feels like a scam. Some might argue it is. You should be “buying” people’s time to write a potential review by giving them your book. You are not buying their opinion.
If your book is a part of a series, it is a good idea to create a box set. Not only these make a great gift, but you can gain fans pretty easily through this. You also have a higher chance to sell your books to them in the future.
Some authors put out box sets of the first 3 books in their 7 part series. Then they put this box set on sale. This makes it really easy to enter into the series and then since the reader is already invested, there’s a higher chance the rest of the books will get sold as well.
And that’s it. Hopefully, you now know how to sell your books or at least boost the sales. This article took quite a bit of research and lied heavily on my heart for a while, yet I am sure I already forgot to mention some stuff. If you have more ideas how to help people sell their books, let me know in the comments below and I’ll either implement it into this article or into the next one. It depends on how long it will be.
I hope the stuff you found here was genuinely useful and I wish you good luck in your future endeavours. If you think there is someone who could benefit from this article, feel free to share it with them or on social media. It helps a lot. Now, enjoy your day, you beautiful person and thank you for reading.
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