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RoundUp: Book Selling Strategies For Success, What Works, What Does Not!

That’s right. Think party. Book party. Authors say book parties sell books by the dozen.

Want to know what they say is the ‘clutch’ strategy for selling books?  It’s not only about hosting a book party but it’s all about connecting with others through social media, networking, holding events and especially through speaking. It’s about reaching out and touching others with your messaging in a personal way.

What else do authors say sells books like crazy?  Blog tours, radio talk show appearances, book launch parties – anything that gets you upclose and personal with your book buying audience.

Bottom line:  Selling books is about keeping it personal.  It’s about creating meaningful connections with others and letting them get to know you.  Selling books is about showcasing your expertise, knowledge and experience.  Making a positive impression.

How do we know?  JenningsWire queried authors across the nation to find out what book promotion strategies resulted in book sales.  Here are the findings:

SOLD: She sold 100,000 books

Maria Dismondy is the author of four award-winning children’s books. Maria’s newest book is The Potato Chip Champ.  Maria offers the following book marketing strategies that sold books for her and says, “In 2012 I hit 100,000 sales in books. Doing this since 2008, I have learned that books don’t sell themselves.”

Book launch party worked:  When my book is first released, I start with three marketing strategies. First is the book launch party. I put some money into it by purchasing a cake and balloons. I work with local companies to get donations for giveaways to my fans. The party is held at a local coffee shop for no charge. The coffee shop offers drink discounts and it’s a win-win for us both! My average number of books sold here is 125-150 copies.

Book signings worked:  Next, I set up some book signings at local bookstores. I sell an average of 25 books per signing but I get good word of mouth advertising at these types of events. Which leads to booking school assemblies (yet, another opportunity to sell books!)

Virtual book tour worked:  The third marketing strategy I use when my book is first released is a Virtual Book Tour. The tour lasts two weeks online. Fourteen different bloggers review and blog about my book. In return, I get exposure to all of their readers (each blogger I work with has an average of 1000-2000 followers).

Blogging worked:  Above all, I have found that blogging has been my #1 book selling strategy. It has gotten me a ton of exposure to expand my audience. I blog about a number of topics and therefore, show up on search engines in the first five search results.

Book selling strategy submitted by Maria Dismondy, author of The Potato Chip Champ, Pink Tiara Cookies For Three, Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun and The Juicy Box Bully.  Please visit Maria at MariaDismondy.com

All new LOADED website along with colorful branding

Website overhaul worked:  Website overhaul that embedded video and a new blog, including all of the media mentions I’ve gotten and continue to get. I also embedded my Youtube channel in the site, and I uploaded every media interview I did there, too, which got sent as a newsflash to all of my subscribers. In addition to being in lots of media, that got more attention every time another source was listed, I speak at places like the International Monetary Fund (October 2012) and my books are always offered to audience members. The other thing that clearly helped is that Barnes & Noble did an eBook download promotion that reduced the book’s price to $6.99.

The more media I got, the more media I continued to get. Reducing book prices meant more promotion from Barnes & Noble. Adding video made me “real” to readers. I sold almost 40,000 book downloads between January and June of 2012, and that’s on top of the tens of thousands more both before and after, but the website tweaks and colorful branding was contemporaneous with the onslaught of book sales.

Book selling strategy submitted by Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, author of Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide.  Caroline is the author of five books total, with a sixth coming out in April (including the best-seller from 1988, My Name is Caroline).  You can visit Caroline Adams Miller on her site, CarolineMiller.com or CreatingYourBestLifeList.com

WOW! 2,200 downloads in a two-day period from Facebook ads, 1,120 downloads from Twitter and Facebook parties

Facebook ads worked:  These work when done for a period of time and points directly to a book  link. An investment of two months builds momentum and works best when sending them to a book link page that allows purchaser to buy immediately. Books sold increased by 30% and there were 2,200 downloads within a 2 day period.

Book release Twitter and Facebook parties worked:  This is another inexpensive way to gain exposure for your books. It’s best to do them as a pair. Use the Twitter party as an ‘appetizer’ to the Facebook party. Creating a party event page and inviting readers while offering up games, prizes, and fun builds strong reader loyalty since they feel as though they were able to participate in your book release party. Books sold increased by 20% and there were 1,120 downloads within a 2 day period.

Newsletters worked:  Newsletters when consistent, but not overbearing, do work to promote exposure and up sales. Also, you can ‘buy’ exposure in other popular newsletters to bump up sales. Spikes in sales by 2% and about 232 downloads within 5 days of newsletter mailing.

Face-to-face time works better than purchasing ads.

Purchasing high-priced visible ads did not work: Most readers don’t purchase a book after reading an ad. Also, it’s costly and hard to garner results. For a small press or a new author, face to face in person or cyber time is more valuable in creating buzz.

Book selling strategy submitted by LM Preston, YA SciFi Author of Explorer X – Alpha, The Pack, BANDITS and Purgatory Reign.  Please visit LM at LMPreston.com

Personally connecting with people at an event

Connecting with others works:  Engaging people in conversation as they passed by the Society for Midland Author’s tent at Printers Row (Chicago). I learned from past experience that hard selling isn’t very effective. An opening line I used was: “Do you read mysteries?” During my allotted two hours, I sold 10 hardcover books.

Book selling strategy submitted by Gail Lukasik, author of The Lost Artist and the Leigh Girard mystery series (Destroying Angels, 2006; Death’s Door, 2009; and the upcoming Peak Season for Murder, September 2013).  Please visit Gail at GailLukaski.com

Getting up close and personal works

Workshops worked:  Workshops around the book.  People like to talk to the author, asking questions and experiencing something they can relate back to the book.

Cooking classes worked:  Holding a Gluten-free Cooking Class for the book, Easy Gluten-free Lunches and Snacks: Simple Cookbook was very successful.  To date all three cooking classes have been sold out and the referrals or word of mouth are also creating sales. People were shown how to make gluten-free wraps/pita/crackers and then they take turns making the same recipe to take home. They are definitely convinced of the merits of the book.

Book selling strategy submitted by Tracey Allen, author of Easy Gluten-free Lunches and Snacks.  You can find out more about Tracey Allen on her Amazon author page and on her website, SimplifyAndSave.ca

Blog tours worked but hard selling “buy my book” did not work

Blog tours worked.: Whether using a service to organize one or reaching out to blogs on your own, authors can easily harness the power of the blogosphere by conducting a 25-30 stop blog tour. While the reviews were nice, I found the most effective stops on the tour were where I wrote a guest post that was not about my book, but about something relevant to that blog’s readership. My most reposted article (and the one that yielded the most sales) was how I used my book, Jack Templar Monster Hunter, to reach out to my eleven-year-old reluctant reader son. Also, monitoring the comments and interacting with the readers created connections that led to more sales.

Hard selling in social media did not work:  The blatant “buy my book” emails, tweets and Facebook posts simply don’t work (and can be annoying.) Once I realized I never personally clicked on those messages or bought a book because of one, I stopped sending them out.

A giveaway on Goodreads worked:  I was slow to realize how powerful a tool Goodreads can be, especially for indie authors. Offering a giveaway introduced Jack Templar Monster Hunter to hundreds of new readers who placed it on their “to-read” shelves.

Google ads did not work:  While I was able to drive traffic to my book website, the cost per click and the conversion of clicks into sales did not pencil.

Book selling strategy submitted by Jeffrey Gunhus, author of Jack Templar Monster Hunter.  Please visit Jeff on his website JackTemplar.com

Appear as a guest on radio talk shows

Dream Expert, Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, author of Dream On It, Unlock Your Dreams Change Your Life (St. Martin’s Press), says that what works best for her is live radio interviews and that speaking events work well too.  Laurie shares her experience with us:

Live radio guest appearance worked:  What works best for me is live radio interviews. Country, Top 40 or Talk, it doesn’t matter. A radio interview allows me to demonstrate how dreams really do have meaning because I get to talk directly to callers and analyze their dreams on the spot. The audience gets to hear the “Aha! Moments” the caller has and this really resonates with them. They want to be able to get those ‘aha’ moments for themselves so they purchase my books at the website. I also offer coupon codes using the stations call letters. It makes the audience feel they are getting an exclusive deal (which they are). Depending on market size I sell anywhere from 2 – 100 books after each appearance. I do 3 – 7 radio interviews every morning so it can really add up.

Speaking events work:  Speaking also works pretty well. While a speaking engagement doesn’t have as big an audience as a radio interview, the majority of attendees will buy after the engagement because I am able to get very interactive with the attendees. Seeing or hearing me in action works!

Appearing on national TV did not work:  Surprisingly, national television does not work as well as you might think. For me anyway. I’ve been on tons of national TV shows throughout the years.  I think the reason radio does so much better for me is that I get to be far more interactive with listeners in a radio interview whereas on TV I’m just answering questions from the host. Plus, on radio I am allowed to promote myself, my website and give coupon codes whereas on TV you are lucky if they put your web address in the chyron, they don’t let you promote yourself (the host does it) and you can’t give out coupon codes.

Book selling strategy submitted by Lauri Quinn Loewenberg whose previous books include So, What Did You Dream Last Night? and Cracking the Dream Code (Laurie notes that both were self published).  Please visit Lauri on her website LauriLoewenberg.com

Smaller events sell books

Intimacy worked:  Selling my book did not work when I went to speak at Woman’s Groups of 60 people or more because it lost the intimacy of the conversation and the personal sharing. Talking to book clubs with under 20 people was an amazing and fulfilling night for everyone.

Book selling strategy submitted by Janet R. Crain D.M.D., author of If You Want an Eggroll, Get Out of the Pizzeria.  Please visit Dr. Crain on her site, JanetCrain.com

They bought books at a Garden Party

Parties worked: Garden parties were my best strategy for selling books. People volunteered to host an outdoor garden party and to provide refreshments and an audience. I showed up with copies of Awaken and talked about the book, answered questions, and did a few interactive activities. In addition to Awaken, I had copies of my 5 other books on a table ready for sale.  I always sold at least 50 copies and sometimes as many as 80 books.

Book selling strategy submitted by Rosalie Deer Heart, author of Awaken, Healing Grief, Harvesting Your Journals and Soul Empowerment.   Please visit Rosalie at Heart-Soul-Healing.com

Launching at an independent book store

The book selling strategy that worked best for me was choosing to launch my novels, CAMP and DANNY’S MOM, at a small, local, well-respected independent book store, which garnered lots of local media attention (newspaper reviews and listings as well as radio appearances) and led to many out-of-area interviews, guest blogs, and author events — as well as an invitation to be the keynote speaker at a large educational conference.

I preceded and followed each book launch with email blasts, Facebook postings, and tweets. At my book launch for CAMP, the local bookstore was jammed beyond capacity, and the store sold the 30 copies it had ordered for the event and immediately brought in more. I quickly scheduled an equally successful “second-chance book launch,” at a Barnes & Noble store to accommodate those who had been turned away from the initial launch.

Did not sell books:  The strategy that did not work was press release distribution.  Releases from the publicist resulted in only a handful of requests for review copies, interviews, and author appearances. My continuing presence on social media seems to generate more interest than press releases.

Book selling strategy submitted by Elaine Wolf, “the anti-bullying novelist” who is a former public school district language arts chairperson and writers’ workshop facilitator.  Elaine is the author of CAMP (Sky Pony Press, June 2012) and DANNY’S MOM (Arcade Publishing, November 2012).  Please visit Elaine at AuthorElaineWolf.com

Strategize to become an Amazon best seller

Lynn Bardowski, author of Success Secrets of a Million $ Party Girl, sold 157 books in one day (hitting #1 on Amazon in the entrepreneur > home based biz category) with this 3 step formula:

1. Launching with a purpose.  I launched with a purpose by donating 20% of all book sales on July 17, 2012 to SERV – a nonprofit that supports survivors of domestic violence. It was so successful I extended the offer and was able to give them a check (live at an event w/ press photos!) for $200. Pretty good amount considering my eBook is less than a Starbucks coffee. By the way, that was part of my strategy too. I told people my book was less than the price of a Starbucks coffee.

2. Speak to a group of ideal clients/readers days before your launch and ask for what you want. I picked July 17 because it was 3 days after my keynote at the Be Your Best Self Conference in Miami, FL. I spoke to an audience of 200 motivated women who were my ideal readers. During my speech, I enlisted their help in raising money for SERV and asked them to all purchase the book on July 17, and invite their social networks to do the same. Follow up is the key. When I came home from Miami I followed up with all 200 attendees (via email) on July 16 – 1 day before go time.

3. Teach people “there’s an app for that!”  I never imagined I’d need to include “how to download a kindle app” in my book marketing strategy, but it was key to my success. Many people thought they needed a kindle to get my eBook, not realizing there’s a free kindle app they can download to a smart phone or tablet. On July 17, when sales starting blowing up – I was getting messages from people all day that they wanted to get the book but didn’t have a kindle. My mantra became – there’s an app for that! I went on social sites and started sharing exactly how to download the kindle app and order the book.

Bonus Tip – Start your PR while you’re writing your book.  I started telling people (everyone) about my book as soon as I had the idea in my head, before I had even written a word. Women entrepreneurs really connected with the title so I could tell I was on to something. As I was writing I trademarked the Million $ Party Girl name, created a website, started a blog, hired a graphic artist to do my branding and another designer to work on my cover. If you’re going to self publish, do it right. Months before my book came out I was already perceived as an Author/Expert and was interviewed on several radio shows, was sought after to speak at women’s networking groups and had an interview published. That’s how I got the gig speaking in Miami July 12 – 15, which is why I launched on July 17.

I sold 122 print books in one day by holding a book party (which sold out 2 weeks before the event) with this formula:

1. Launch your eBook first to create a buzz!  When the eBook became an Amazon best seller with 5 star reviews, it created a buzz for the print version. I started to get calls, emails and FB messages for a print version of my book. I was able to use the Amazon reviews as testimonials and put a few of them in the front of the print version of the book (something I would have not been able to do if I launched them together).

2. Use Social Media.  Before the eBook debut I created the Million $ Party Girl FB page, to engage and connect with readers, as well as share my blog/insights. It worked! When I launched the print version I created a FB event to keep the “buzz” going. The book party sold out two weeks before the event, which was just crazy!

3. Include the cost of the book in the ticket price – and give away swag!  For $25 every attendee at my book party got a swag bag that included a personalized signed copy of my book, appetizers, wine bar & dessert buffet. Since everyone registered ahead of time (via eventbrite), I was able to sign the books in advance and did not sit at a table signing books all night (that’s a major party killer). My readers are smart, talented, motivated entrepreneurs – so local and national brands were lining up to provide free swag. I had sponsors that paid for the catering and dessert bar and teamed up with a local interior designer (who wanted to connect with my readers) who hosted the event at her Million $ Home for FREE. It’s all about the branding. The event was super fun, and super fabulous – very Million $ Party Girl! We even had a “best in shoe” contest because you need a kick ass pair of heels to kick butt – just for fun!

4. Send out press releases and barter with a professional photographer to cover your event.  SoJo Happening (a local online news mag) covered the event. The photographer who took my head shot pic for my back cover was my event photog – she did it for free for the exposure for her business.

Book selling strategy submitted by Lynn Bardowski, author of Success Secrets of a Million $ Party Girl. Lynn’s website says that this book shares how she had the courage, vision and belief to leave the safety net of a successful corporate career to build her multi million dollar business.  Please visit Lynn at MillionDollarPartyGirl.com

Speak at lots of events, paid and unpaid, big, small and in-between

Speaking works:  Although my novel, Rounding Third, is three years old, 2012 was its best year for sales. Although it is fiction, it quite powerfully addresses the teen bullying/suicide crisis and happened to be published just before those tragedies started making the news. I did numerous speaking engagements–more this year than in the previous two years combined–and already have engagements lined up for 2013. When I give a talk, usually I would only sell a handful of books at the actual event, but for days or weeks after an appearance I could watch sales go up on Amazon. And one thing leads to another.  I got invitations from other colleges to speak and after I was on the NPR affiliate in Pittsburgh got invitations to do other presentations and a webinar.

What sold the most books for me in 2012 was the Los Angeles Times Festival of books. A friend asked me to share a booth and I calculated how many books I would have to sell to break even on expenses. I sold exactly that many books so was a little disappointed that I hadn’t made a profit. But I gave out over 200 postcards about my book to people who visited my booth. Over the next few days more than 100 copies sold on Kindle.

Book selling strategy submitted by Walter G. Meyer, author of Rounding Third.  Please visit Walter at WalterGMeyer.com

Again, speaking events continue to sell books. An author partners with related organizations

I am an author who lives in Wyoming. Because I live in a fairly remote area, most of my marketing, publicity and sales come through efforts I expend: Facebook and Twitter, blogging and guest blog posts, as well as speaking and reading events. Though I’ve appeared on TV and done radio interviews, I have found events are the best way for me to sell books.  My newest book, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, was released in October 2012. I find that events which partner me with groups with which my books can be connected (ie, animal rescue organizations) generates strong book sales because it brings out people who are not just looking to pick up another good book, but also those who are interested in the cause and appreciate the author supporting that cause. .

Book selling tip submitted by Gayle M. Irwin author of Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog (Oct. 2012)  Please visit Gayle at GayleMIrwin.com

Lots of content via blog and social media sites, author sells 5,000 books via speaking events

Blogging works:  Lots and lots of content pushed out via our blog and social media sites. Content builds trust, 100%, trust builds customers and buyers. It’s a lot of work but once you create this content funnel, it becomes a machine that keeps pulling new consumers in.

Speaking works:  I do a lot of speaking at business events and writer’s conferences. But here’s the key: I sell more books if the books are in the room with me. If conference attendees have to go to the conference bookstore to buy them, I’ll sell much less, maybe by half.

How many books sold?  Almost 5,000 of just one title (and I have seven out currently)

What didn’t work:  We’re always testing new things and hands down, ads did not work. I don’t know how else to enhance this but to say that consumers are tired of being sold.

Book selling strategy submitted by Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. is a book marketing and publishing specialist.  Penny is the author of Red Hot Internet Publicity, Get Published Today, 52 Ways to Sell More Books and Powerful Pinterest.  Please visit Penny at AMarketingExpert.com

Note from Annie:  The fun part about book marketing is getting the chance to live your dream of helping others with your book.  It’s about the joy of experiencing your book’s message in motion.  So the idea is to get out into the world and share yourself, your message and your book via hosting a book party, speaking anywhere, even at small gatherings, appearing on radio talk shows and engaging in lots of social media without any of the “hard sell” tactics.  Let go of the thoughts “but how many books did I sell” and focus on how you can be of help to others.

All heart, Annie Jennings (Founder of the national book marketing firm, Annie Jennings PR & Creator of JenningsWire).  Feel free to connect with Annie for more info about book publicity at Annie Jennings PR.com. Affiliate programs available to organizations, author groups, associations and more.