16 Tips from an author who cannot sell books
By Michael Melville
Every day on my Twitter and Facebook feed, I see lists of writing advice for writers and novelists and they are usually written by writers just like me. These lists range from original to copied to tongue in cheek to serious. Some of the advice is legit and original while some of it is Googled and occasionally we get advice from “real writers” whatever the hell those are. I am a real writer, a real author or at least I like to think of myself that way but maybe I’ve been wrong this whole time. Therefore, I decided to toss my 16 thoughts into the cesspool that is the internet and proclaim loudly the minuscule amount of knowledge I have learned or noticed concerning this, “thing of ours.” This is part two of a two-part list. If you missed Part one click here.
The Top 5
- Some people just won’t
It doesn’t matter if you are running a 50% off paperback sale or dropped the Kindle Edition price of your books from say $4.99 to $0.99 or even free. Some friends and family (many most likely) just will not buy them no matter what or how much you advertise. YES, even if they LIKE your Author Page on Facebook. This could be for many reasons such as:
- They are cheap
- They are not avid readers
- They don’t really support your writing
- They think because you are self-published that you are not a real author
- They just don’t like you
- Your books are in a genre they don’t like (romance and fantasy writers I’m talking to you)
- They don’t have a Kindle and don’t know how apps work.
- They see writing as a hobby not a career
I feel that If you published a book two or more years ago and a lot of your friends and family still have not bought it yet don’t expect them to until a book you write says New York Times Best Selling Author on top. Then you can laugh quietly when they try to say they supported you all along when you know they did not. If FREE is not enough to entice them a bandwagon is.
Really though, you need to remember you’re not a writer and writing books for the benefit of your family and friends alone. Its not about making them your sole fans and the leverage behind your sales and marketing. Sure it’s awesome and greatly appreciated when and if they do buy our books and especially if they like them. You’re really writing and creating for you though and the hopes of getting a portion of millions of other readers around the world to do the same thing.
- Giving books away for free
After friends, family and co-workers start to find out about your recently released novel or that its coming out, some may say they want a copy and even act a little excited. Then YOU are going to get a little excited right? Your first reaction will be something like, “Awesome, my friends actually want to buy my book, this is amazing.” Usually this isn’t the case however. What they really mean is that they want a free copy and not an eBook either. They want the pretty print version. People always want shit for free that they don’t see of as any real value. Remember when I said that some people will think your writing is a hobby even though it’s not? Well, those people will not want to spend money on your “hobby” either. I’ve often wondered if these people would have the gall to ask Stephen King for a free copy of his new book if they knew him personally…somehow I doubt it.
I won’t lie I’ve given out print copies for free but not often, in fact now I refuse to. They are expensive to order and can have a high-profit margin. I usually refrain from giving away free print copies now unless it’s a Rafflecopter, social media giveaway or they are a legit book reviewer or book blogger. I do suggest keeping at least several copies on hand at home for the occasion when people are willing to shell out money because you never know when you can make a sale and gain a new reader and maybe a good review. If someone says they want a copy tell them how much it is. If they are like, “ok cool I can’t wait” then you are gold but if they say anything that starts with, “oh…,” forget about it and let them know it is cheaper as an eBook on Amazon. I know the owner of my local Biggby Coffee shop, but I don’t expect free coffee out of it. It is just not good business.
- Social media and marketing
This harkens back to #5 a little. DO NOT rely on your personal Facebook as a sole means of marketing your books and business. If you do, you will be a really sad panda after your first book has been out for 6 months and the pool of interest dries up. Marketing sucks and is perhaps the shittiest part of being an Indie author but it comes with the business. Learn social media, and stick to what you are comfortable with until you get a hang of things. The most important thing is to develop some semblance of a marketing plan and strategy even if it is basic. Basic is better than nothing. Networking with other authors in the business is part of marketing so do that also. Even if you are not marketing your books directly, you are at least marketing yourself, which is equally important. Just putting your book on Amazon and/or Barnes and Noble and doing nothing as far as marketing means, it was just a big fat waste of money, months and perhaps years. You treated it like a hobby and you literally wasted your time that you could have spent doing yoga or knitting. People do not buy books that they have no idea exist.
- It’s all or nothing
No one is going to believe in this, your books and writing career, as much as you do. Even the person you love the most in the world will occasionally question the sanity of this especially when money isn’t coming in consistently or at all. It is up to you too either prove the naysayers wrong or prove them right. It’s all about your tenacity and what’s in your heart. I might get some heat for this but if you don’t have this 100% in your heart you might as well walk away. It’s not easy and is a battle personally and professionally. For us writers’, writing is part of who we are and it cannot be anything less.
- It’s just this simple
Just Write. It sounds simple, but this is the part so many budding authors seem to get hung up on because of all these stupid “how to” books and blogs they read. They put so much thought and wasted time in the whole process of writing and writing a book that they forget or have trouble with the most important part. Forget planning and putting too much thought into it. If you have an idea just write, the story will come eventually or you will realize it just does not work (for now). When it does everything else will work itself out.
–Note I Left out things like editing because any writer worth their salt should already know this and if not I am sure you will read it on another list, ebook, blog or writers group-