If you haven’t yet published a book, know one thing – it is ridiculously challenging. Not only is the writing and editing process tough, the marketing phase makes grown adults cry.
Selling books is very hard.
There are somewhere between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year in the U.S. alone. On average, they sell less than 250 copies each (I had to recheck that 250 figure a few times because I couldn’t believe it, but it’s correct).
Prior to my book being published in October of 2012, I thought I would crush it in sales. I had strategy after strategy after strategy. It turns out, when the book launched it came no where near my sales goal in the first week, 30 days, or 3 months. However, I readjusted, readjusted more, and then readjusted even more and soon enough hit a sales stride.
By the 5th month after publishing, I reached 10,000 books sold. To this day, my book sales remain strong and I’m proud of the markers hit (including #1 Amazon Relationship Book and #1 Amazon Happiness Book).
My sales journey is only 3 years old and it has already been eye opening. In an effort to help you if you’re struggling with the book sales process or just simply to give insight if you’re currently crushing it on the marketing end, I’d like share the top 4 sales lessons I’ve learned in my book journey.
Lesson 1: Build Your Platform Before Thinking About Writing
If you don’t have an audience (or a giant machine, like a movie or tv show attached to your project) and you want to sell a book, you’re behind. You need a platform. A platform is getting enough people to care about you and your book anyway you can. It’s creating a community, typically through social media, of people with a genuine interest in the ideas you’re putting forward. It’s the way in which you create a strong brand around you and get the world to pay attention. The good news is that you CAN build it. The bad news is just like Rome, it can’t be built overnight. For insight on building your brand, I strongly suggest this book by Michael Hyatt.
Lesson 2: Use Affiliates
This is something I haven’t done as extensively as others (or as extensively as I plan to do for my next book), but from what experience I have with it I can tell you without question it is a winning strategy. Of the authors I’ve met who have hit big sales markers like the New York Times Best Sellers List (and didn’t have a big machine behind them or a significant platform) they used the affiliate method. In short, an affiliate strategy means buddying up with people who have platforms and incentivizing them to message their audience about your book.
The beauty of this step is you don’t need to have a network of people with huge platforms, you can invert and go with a large number of people with respectively small platforms. The bottom line is there are millions of bloggers and social media personalities with an audiences of a few to a few million. Get those affiliates to plug your book and it will go a long, long, long way in the sales department.
Lesson 3: Go on Tour!
Not only have I sold more books through touring than any other vehicle, there’s also not been a method I have personally enjoyed more. Being given the opportunity to speak about your passion to an audience interested in listening is an incredibly moving experience. Touring also helps cast your network net wider. Over the last year, I visited 22 cities on my book tour. On average, 150 people attended each event and purchase rates were very high (in some events I included the book within the ticket price and at other events a book purchase was optional).
An added bonus of touring is the “echo effect.” Of the many who will come to hear you speak, several will walk away so moved by your words they become your evangelists. For example, in every city I visited, at least one person from the audience created a book club, therefore generating exponential purchases and further word of mouth.
Here’s a clip from the launch of my book tour.
Lesson 4: Get on TV
Sure, I know what you’re saying, “it’s not easy to get on TV.” I hear you, but I believe getting on TV is doable for anyone who wants it enough. Before I made it to the Oprah Winfrey Network, I had muscled my way on 6 national talk shows and a handful of local TV news spots. And it paid in full. One 120 second segment on the Wendy Williams show netted over 500 books sold within 24hrs of my appearance. When people see you on a TV show, it’s a the equivalent of a credibility stamp among the viewership of that particular program. Also, TV segments (even if local) drive further TV segments (shows are more prone to book you if they know you’ve done other TV).
So how do you get on TV? Here are a few tips.
- First, make sure you have the chops. Be self-aware enough to know if you need media training or further practice.
- Get your written pitch down succinctly and start blasting away to producers and show bookers. Know that 99% won’t even reply. But who cares, you just need the 1%.
- Leverage your network. I’ve had several people ask me for introductions to producers, and I’ve obliged many. However, before you ask me or anyone for a TV introduction, please read this 3 times.
- Get busy on YouTube. Every assistant producer I know spends time searching for story ideas and guests on social media, namely YouTube. I talk about it often but I was found by Oprah’s team from my YouTube clips.
Here’s a detailed interview I did with an executive of the Oprah Winfrey Network that includes more tips on how to get on TV.