Authors must do two things well to sell books:
- Write great content.
- Promote that content.
The best marketing and promotions favorably impress customers, and make them remember you. One favorable impression of me as an author may not generate immediate book sales, but dozens of them over time will eventually boost my results.
Here are five simple actions I take to create goodwill:
1. Send handwritten thank-you notes.
In the age of email and text messages, snail-mail thank-you notes are as rare as shooting stars. Consequently, people favorably remember the author who sent them a handwritten note. I send them to bookstore owners who have hosted my signings; organizers of activities such as library talks, book club appearances, book festivals, and anyone else who has done this author a favor.
2. Go the extra mile.
My favorite bookstore owner has sold dozens of my books. But, her store is more than thirty miles away. When she requests more books, I literally go the extra mile, and drive to her store to deliver signed copies. Amazingly, she has sold several copies while I have been in her store completing the delivery! Because she’s a huge advocate for local authors, she’s thrilled to introduce me to a customer who might be interested in my genre. Her customers trust her recommendations so they often buy. Use your creativity to find other ways to go the extra mile for those who help you sell your books.
3. Meaningfully connect with other authors.
If you’ve attended any writing conferences or other gathering of writers—live or virtual—you’ve met many authors. Establish meaningful relationships (not just Facebook friends) with those people, especially with writers in your genre. Join writing groups like Sisters in Crime or Romance Writers of America, and interact with other members. Set up joint book signings with colleagues, or attend signings featuring local authors. Read their books. If you liked a book, post online reviews, and mention it in your blog or social media. Let that author know and she may return the favor someday. Success for any author in my circle of colleagues can lead to more sales for the rest of us.
4. Embrace technology.
Whether it was mastering email and MSWord back in the day, or learning how to use Zoom and maintain a website nowadays, “author technology” is here to stay. Because I’ve built positive relationships with many local authors, I was recruited to moderate a panel of mystery writers for a virtual book festival. The session was pre-recorded for airing via YouTube during the event.
All told, I spent about ten hours learning the technology so I could produce that 45-minute video. The upside was threefold: The organizers have a favorable opinion of me as someone who steps up to do the job when asked. The authors on the panel know me better (and vice versa), making it likelier we’ll all recommend each other’s books to potential customers going forward. Best of all, if I’m asked to moderate an author panel again, it’ll be much easier the second time. Again, I didn’t see any immediate sales from that activity, but the goodwill I generated should result in future sales.
5. Pay it forward.
During my writing journey, I’ve received excellent advice and support from many authors, both famous and as yet undiscovered. I recommend those authors first to anyone looking for book recommendations. They’re at the top of my list because they were kind, generous, good people—the kind of people we all want as friends. For years, I’ve given help or advice to any authors who ask. My goal is for those I’ve helped to have a permanent, positive impression of me. Who knows? A new author you help today may eventually become successful, and return the favor tenfold.
Every gesture of appreciation, generosity, or reciprocity you make today won’t automatically result in book sales tomorrow. But, the cumulative effect of that goodwill will set the stage for increased sales next month or next year. More importantly, no matter your sales numbers, you’ll enjoy your author journey much more if it includes positive, mutually beneficial experiences with the people you encounter along the way.
Chris Norbury is the award-winning author of the mystery-suspense-thrillers Straight River and Castle Danger. His short story “Killer Tacos” was published in 2020 as part of the Cooked to Death, Vol. V: Restaurant in Peace anthology. Learn more about him at chrisnorbury.com.
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