The Best Way to Sell Books: Follow This Marketing Rule

The Best Way to Sell Books: Follow This Marketing Rule

Want to know why most writers are unsuccessful at marketing their books?

It’s because they consistently violate the cardinal rule of selling: Your success in selling anything is directly related to the amount of value you give your customers.

What’s valuable to your potential readers is the same as what’s valuable to everybody, including memorable experiences, positive feelings, connection, usefulness, inspiration, and so on.

Consider the artists, musicians, writers and companies you truly enjoy. When you do business with them, is it simply an emotionless transaction? Or is there something more profound, something greater that your association with them gives you?

Here’s a prime example: Jimmy Buffett hasn’t had a hit record in more than 30 years. But his shows consistently sell out huge venues. He’s built an empire of eateries, music venues and products (even his own tequila brand) under the Margaritaville umbrella and he’s an icon to millions of fans.

How did he make that happen? By giving his fans massive value. And by building a tribe to keep the connection growing.

When his tribe (fans known as Parrotheads) assemble, people who may have had a tough week in the workplace get to put on Hawaiian shirts and silly hats and pretend that they’re on a beach somewhere. They feel connection with each other and they feel connection to the artist.

Between shows, the value continues. Videos, social media, blog posts, books, emails — they all reinforce the common bond that draws his fans together.

Where’s your value?

Now consider how most authors market their books.

Most authors don’t even think about marketing until they release their book. Then they flail around, hoping to get some attention.

If you ask one such author, “What value are you giving potential readers?” they’d likely say “The value is in how good my book is!”

Well, that’s nice. But no one has read your book yet. You’ve actually provided zero value. No wonder you aren’t selling books!

Now, let’s examine another scenario.

The same writer — a community based around a shared interest, belief or outlook — and showers them with value: fun stories, memorable quotes, small gifts, a platform for tribe members to share their feelings and experiences, a place for likeminded folks to meet each other, and so on.

Then the author releases her book.

And what happens?

Her tribe repays the value she’s provided them many times over. They are rooting for her. They are excited for her. They buy her book and go on a mission to share the book with others.

And remember, the biggest of tribes start small. Don’t be intimidated if you don’t have a large following yet.

A dose of book-marketing reality

I’m going to be very direct here, so my apologies if this rubs you the wrong way, but no one cares about you and your book. At least not right now.

You need to make them care. And you can’t do that if you spend all day plastering your book’s Amazon link all over Twitter and Facebook expecting people to buy it. And you can’t do that by starting a blog and then posting one article a year.

The way to make them care is to give real value before you even talk about your book. If you can get someone to say “Wow, I’m really happy this person is in my life,” you’ve officially reached a status few writers ever attain.

So right now, you need to ask yourself this very important question about your current marketing efforts: Are you giving prospective readers any value, or are you just pushing your book in their direction hoping they’ll buy it?

If you’re doing the latter, you need to stop right now, and ask “Who is my potential reader? What does he or she care about? How can I introduce myself by giving value, nurture our relationship by giving value and then lead them to the ultimate value I have to offer them: my book?”

How to create value before you release your book

To get moving in the right direction to create value for your readers, ponder these questions:

  • Who is my ideal prospective reader? Male or female? How old? Where does he or she live?
  • What are some things that my ideal reader and I have in common? Do we care about similar issues? Do we see the world in a certain unique way?
  • What kind of things get my ideal reader excited? Social connection? Information about a particular passion? Reinforcement of their worldview and beliefs?
  • If I were to meet my ideal reader at a cocktail party, what would I talk to him or her about before I even mention that I’ve written a book they would enjoy?

The goal of this exercise is to form a human connection with your prospective readers before you attempt to sell them anything.

Do this and your marketing efforts will not only be more successful — they’ll also be far more enjoyable and energizing for you. That’s because you’d have moved beyond the realm of “selling something” and into the much more pleasurable experience of adding value to people’s lives.

The bottom line? If you can make someone feel grateful you’ve entered their life before they even read your book, you’ve got much more than a customer. You’ve got a fan.

And when you’ve got fans, you’ve got a career.

What’s worked for you when it comes to marketing your books?

Filed Under: Marketing

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9 comments

  • Hello Jon,
    Great post indeed and i couldn’t have agreed more on all your awesome points. This is exactly the mistake most of us usually make, we think that once our book is out there, people will start pulling down our doors to purchase it but, thats not true.

    If you must get any meaningful outcome from your boom launch, you need to do the first things first and that is by first creating an audience first.

    Once you’ve gotten some raving and happy fans, it will be very easy for you to market to them and they will even recommend the book to friends which will mean more $$$$$$$.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • Alicia Rades says:

    Fantastic article that gave me a lot to think about. I don’t feel like I’m very good at marketing my books, but I’ve started to follow what other authors I admire do on social media, and it seems to be engaging my audience more. People especially like when I post pictures of me working on new stories or even just photos of my cats cuddling me while I’m writing. I think it connects on a more personal level without throwing a sales pitch in their face.

    • Shannon says:

      Hey Alicia! I am an author and content strategist, and I help authors market their books. I just put out an article you might find helpful, and I wanted to share it with you:

      I agree with you about engagement–there is a reason Social Media has the word social in it! I find that the more time I spend engaging and creating extreme value, the more books that sell!

      xo Shannon

    • Jon Bard says:

      Thanks Alicia! And yes — human connection trumps everything. (And pet pictures never fail!)

  • Joseph says:

    Great post, i think another way of marketing our books, is by using paid advertising.

    • Jon Bard says:

      Yes, but be careful — advertising can be a real money waster if you aren’t tracking its impact. Take some time to read up on Facebook Ads and other venues before spending anything

  • that was a great read Jon. I not sure how my social media is working but I have been posting tidbits of the novel I’m writing at the present time. I do get feed back that everyone is excited to hear what my protagonist is doing.

  • Donna Barker says:

    Good food for thought. Very good.

    Do you have any concrete examples of authors who you think have done this well? A weblink or two?

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