Worst and Best Strategies for Selling Books

Today I’m going to make a marketing blog post. We only have a finite amount of time to spend in a day, so if you’re looking at ways to use it productively to maximize your chance of making money, here are the tips I’ve learned over the years.

Waste of time #1: Social Media

Social media sites are about communicating with people. Ideally, these forms of communication don’t result in arguments, but a lot of people argue on these platforms. Personally, I feel like a lot of social media is toxic. As a general rule, I stay away from it as much as possible. I have seen no difference in my income after leaving Facebook or leaving Twitter. Joining MeWe hasn’t made any difference, nor has it made any difference when I stopped posting on my author page over there, either.

Now, keep in mind I’m talking about “sales” when I say social media is a waste of time. I’m not talking about spending time chatting with your friends, family, or readers. Social media can also be a good place to learn from others in your field. I use FB (under my pen name these days) and MeWe (under my real name) to keep in touch with friends and family. I don’t use these to sell books. Sadly, MeWe is lacking with a solid good writing community. I don’t know why, but it is. Most of the authors seem to be back in the 2010 mindset with publishing and marketing. If that’s where you’re at, then you’ll do fine over there, but if you’ve been at this for a few years, it’s not a good place to learn about stuff that is relevant for today’s market. FB is still the best place if you want to keep up-to-date on the current writing, publishing, and marketing trends.

I guess some authors run ads on these sites to boost visibility, but there are a couple of reasons I don’t think buying these ads is worth it. One, I’ve heard of authors getting their accounts hacked into at FB, leaving them vulnerable to thieves who can find their credit card information. Two, FB will turn down ads for whatever reason, and usually, they don’t explain why. Three, it’s dangerous to be dependent on a platform that can censor or send you to “jail” at any time for whatever reason. I realize that authors are vulnerable anyway since we can’t control retailers, but if you need to run those ads on FB in order to make most of your money, I highly encourage you to spread your marketing net wider to buffer yourself.

Waste of time #2: Wattpad

Wattpad readers aren’t buyers. They are there for free books. If all you want to do is share your work, then Wattpad is great. It’s an easy way to reach readers. But if you are thinking that a lot of people on Wattpad will read your free book and go on to buy your other books, think again. That’s not the way it plays out. While the people there are nice, they will message you about posting your other books, and they will message you a lot about this. They want all of your books, and they want it for free. That’s why this platform is a huge waste of time for anyone who is looking to make money from their work. I’m all for giving away a free book, but that strategy should result in you selling paid books.

Waste of time #3: Trying to convince someone who doesn’t read your genre to buy your book anyway

I don’t see this much, but sometimes I’ll see an author who decides to pitch their book to people who aren’t interested in the genre they’re writing in. I don’t care what the book is; it will not appeal to everyone. But some authors will pitch their books as if there’s a little of everything for everyone. For example, if someone is asking for a romance, they are looking for a story where the romance is the main plot, and they are looking for the happy ending. They are not looking for a story where two people meet, fall in love, and go their separate ways (or die). If the two people don’t end up together, it is a “love story”, not a “romance”. I can’t believe how many authors who’ve written love stories will try to convince romance readers to buy their book. Mentioning your book to someone when the story doesn’t fit what they’re looking for is a waste of time. You’d be better off mentioning a book that actually fits what that person is looking for. Also, it would be nice if you helped out another author by pitching their book if it fits what a person wants.

Waste of time #4: Giveaways to strangers

I think most people enter giveaways to get something for free. I realize the goal of giveaways is to reach new readers by giving them a risk-free chance on you, but after doing giveaways to random strangers, I don’t recall hearing from the winners ever again. One author I know gave away signed paperbacks of her entire series, and she later found that this person was selling these paperbacks on Ebay. My advice, for what it’s worth, is to run your giveaways to people who already like your books. These are the people who will appreciate the gift. If you want to give away books to strangers, make your ebook free on the retailers. Regarding the gift card or physical gift giveaway, I still think it’s best to offer that to your current readership. The people who should be your focus are those who already like your work.

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Best use of time #1: Write the next book

The best way to make money is with a new book. You can’t sell something you don’t have. Writing the next book is the priority, so long as your head is in the game and you can get words on paper. You do need to be in the right mindset to write a book. The words don’t automatically come to you, and while people say it’s better to have a crappy first draft than no draft at all, I disagree. I think it’s best to have a good first draft. The better your first draft is, the less pain and aggravation you’ll have to go through in cleaning it up. So don’t force something if it’s not coming. You want your book to please your readers. (No book will please everyone, but those people who already enjoy your work should like the next book you publish.) If you need to take a step back and do something else, that’s fine. But if you have the creative spark flowing, and you have the time to write, the best use of your time is writing the next book.

Best use of time #2: Get your book into a new format or on a new retailer

I think it’s always good to expand your reach if you can. When you’re exclusive, you’re cutting off potential sources of income. Granted, all sources of income are not created equally. You’ll probably make more selling books on one retailer rather than another. You’ll probably also sell more in one format (ebook, paperback, audio, serial) than you will in another format. But the thing is, you never know what venue a potential reader will prefer. I’ll give an example from something that just happened to me as a reader. Now that my eyes are struggling, I am not a paperback, ebook, or serial app reader. I need to listen to books. I have switched from listening to books on my Kindle to listening to books on my Google Play app that’s on my iPhone because my iPhone is small enough to slip into my pocket while I go out for a walk. There are readers like me who have a narrow option for consuming books. If you’re not in audio on Google Play, I probably won’t read your books. Who knows what someone else is going through out there? When you take the time to get your books in multiple formats and on different retailers, you are giving more readers out there a chance to read your books.

Depending on how many books you have, this can be a long process. Not everyone can afford an assistant to do this stuff for them. But let’s say you’re having a dry spell with your writing, or let’s say you just finished a book and need a break. Why not take this time to work on getting your book into a new format or up on another retailer? It’s still a productive use of your time.

Best use of time #3: Answer your blog comments

I’m surprised by how many authors don’t do this. I realize we’re busy people, but I think it’s good to comment when someone takes time to say something nice. I don’t believe in responding to nasty comments. Nasty comments should get trashed. Then the commenter should be blocked. You wouldn’t let someone into your home who wants to tell you how terrible you are. So there’s no reason to do that on your blog. If people want to complain about your books, they can do that in a review or on their own social media timeline or on their own blog/website. You are under no obligation to entertain these people on your home turf.

But if someone has a supportive comment or even a genuine question, it’s always best to answer them. Even if it takes you a week or two to get to them, do it. I understand what it’s like to be unable to get to the computer every day. Not everyone is tied to the internet. So don’t feel like if you were unable to answer the comment within a day or two that it’s not worth answering at all. It is worth answering because those people took the time to communicate to you. If the same people comment, after a while, you’ll get to know them, and when you get to know them, you might end up befriending them. There are a lot of nice people out there.

Best use of time #4: Ads

I’m all for ads as long as you can afford them. My favorite ad site is Freebooksy. They reach out to multiple retailers, and for someone who is wide, that is important. I’ve never been approved for a Bookbub, but I hear that one is pretty good, though some authors are reporting less success than they had in the past. Fussy Librarian and Booksends have a good reputation, too, though their reach is less than Freebooksy or Bookbub. I’ve also done some promos on LitRing. Also, LitRing is a way you can get promoted on social media without spending time there.

I haven’t done the pay-per-click ads. It sounds like you have to continually monitor keywords to view the effectiveness of these on Amazon and Bookbub. From what I’ve heard, the most successful ones are at Amazon. One author ran them on her KU and non-KU books and noticed that the clicks were better on the KU books. Do KU books do better with an Amazon ad? I’m not sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Amazon gave KU books an extra boost.

Ads are a good way to reach strangers to your work. If you’re in a genre that moves a lot of free books on a regular basis (like romance does), then running ads on a free book (esp. if it’s the first book in a series) will give you the greatest bang for your buck.

Best use of time #5: Email list

I don’t believe you have to constantly email people on your list with tidbits about your book or your day like some authors do. If you’re an extrovert and love talking to people, you’ll probably want to set up an email list where you send something out every week or so. But I’m an introvert, and it takes a lot of energy for me to communicate with people, even if I know them. I prefer to only email when I have a new book out. I didn’t think this email list was beneficial to me until I got rid of it. I had a reader or two who didn’t read my blog or followed me on a retailer, so the only way they knew I had a book out was when I sent out the email. Lesson learned. I got the email list back. I don’t have a huge email list. My list is under 200 people. It’s not the amount of people you have on your list that matter; what matters is if those people are buying your books.

I don’t do much with the email I send out. It’s pretty much the book cover, the description, and links where people can find it. I used to offer a special epilogue, but I don’t have time to do those anymore. It really depends on your time. If you have the time to add something extra, I think that’s great. But the primary purpose is to let people know when you have a new book out, and this can be put together and sent out in under half an hour, which is great when you’re limited on time.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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9 Responses to Worst and Best Strategies for Selling Books

  1. You might be right about social media. I might spend too much time trying to find readers there. Maybe I’ll try some of the websites for ads you recommend.

    • If you’re still on FB, why not give the group Wide for the Win a try? They have a lot of good tips in there about marketing. FB is a terrible place to find readers. Maintaining a relationship with a reader after you find one is okay on FB, but FB has limited reach. FB will not show you on everyone’s timeline, and if you have an author page, you have to pay to “boost” it so more people can see it. Except for the marketing groups over there, I see no value in FB.

  2. ReaderGirl says:

    Crazy enough, I found you through Wattpad. I stumbled on either Suddenly A Bride or Eye of The Beholder and read most of the books you had on there which eventually led to me going on Amazon and c6 year later I own 72 of your books (71 ebooks and 1 physical copy)

    • Are you that person on Wattpad who said they were going to buy my books? It’s been so long ago that I don’t remember that person’s name. But there was someone who told me they’d buy my books. The reason that stands out is because everyone else told me they couldn’t afford to buy books or they didn’t have a credit card to make purchases online.

      • ReaderGirl says:

        I’m not sure if I mentioned it back then, at the time I was at uni and very broke but I loved your books so much that I just had to buy them and so in 2017 I bought the first one and have kept that going with no intention of stopping

        • All I remember is that the person said they would check the books out on Amazon. Either way, I’m excited you let me know you found me on Wattpad and are still reading my books. I didn’t think anyone kept up with me after I left. That means a lot to me. 😀

          • ReaderGirl says:

            If you did mention you were on Amazon I may have replied that I’ll check your books out because I can’t think of how I’d have found you on Amazon if I hadn’t seen you mention it.

            I’m glad I kept up with your books, believe it or not they bring me great joy and comfort everytime I read them, I share Eliza’s sentiments in Bride of Second Chances when she said “I read to escape”. I love that there’s a happy ending in all the stories and that’s why I tend to reread them like I’m currently doing.

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