Thanks to platforms like Amazon’s KDP and Ingramspark, anyone can be an author and self-publish a book. Due to this accessibility, the market is flooded with self-published books that vary greatly in quality. This is the good and bad of self-publishing. The barrier to publish is low, but the need to prove your quality is high.
Your book sales as a self-published author will be directly related to your proof of quality. So, how do you prove to the world that your book is high-quality and worth the purchase cost? In short, reviews. Without enough positive reviews your book is unlikely to sell. Reviews are step zero in marketing and selling your book.
As a self-published author, you must put in the work and seek out honest reviews for your book. If possible, get reviews before you launch the book. You can do this through ARC reviewers, which means that someone agrees to read and review your book before it is available to everyone else in the world. “ARC reviewer” is an excellent search term to use for tracking down people who know the ins and outs of the process. Many of these reviewers will have their own blog, website, account on Goodreads, or some other means to find them.
If you have already launched your book, you should still actively seek reviews. There is no definitive number of reviews that you need, but self-published authors face more scrutiny by the buyer than authors of big publishing houses where quality and trust have been built. As a general rule, you should have a minimum of 15 positive reviews, with 30 positive reviews being your goal. Well known authors will have hundreds of them.
Start by making a list of people who can review your book, like colleagues, cousins, friends, neighbors, local librarians, local store owners, etc. Offer them a digital PDF, mobi file, or physical reviewer copy, and supply them with the links to where you want the reviews posted. If you make the process simple, they are more likely to provide a review.
Next, move on to reviewers you don’t personally know, like book bloggers or Amazon product reviewers. Finding contact information takes time. Goodreads is an excellent place to find reviewers. Check their community section, email active members who post lots of reviews, and add posts that indicate you are looking for reviewers. For Amazon reviewers, you can find books that have a lot of reviews and click on the name of the reviewer. This will take you to their profile, which may or may not provide an email address. All of this hunting takes effort, but reviews are very important if you want your book to sell, so believe me it’s worth the effort.
Lastly, always put a call to action at the end of your book. Ask your readers to post a review. Let them know that reviews are the best way to support an independent author. Sometimes this little step will encourage reviews.
Once you have some positive reviews, you can focus your efforts on sales. This process takes some creativity, as every self-published book is about a different topic. Take some time to think about your audience and your book topic. Where do these people shop? What magazines do they read? Do they prefer boutiques or chain stores? The more you consider where your audience may be and what other products they buy, the better you can pinpoint where you should market.
For example, if your book is about custom cars, you can look up car magazines, engine supply companies, local auto parts stores, motor part subscription companies, local car shows, etc. Ask if you can sell your book in their location, or if they will outright buy your book to sell, or if you can provide a free copy for a giveaway.
More traditional routes for sales include approaching local indie bookstores and asking if they will sell your book. Request that your local library buy your book. Have a book signing at a coffee shop, bookstore, or gift store. These methods are slow and steady.
Modern methods for increasing sales in larger numbers are those that leverage the internet. If you have a lot of good reviews, you may want to invest in advertising. You can buy an ad on Amazon, Goodreads, in a specific magazine, or anywhere you think your audience may see it. You can also solicit sites like Zulily and Uncommon Goods to sell your book.
The more you think outside the box in terms of marketing and where to sell your book; the less competition you will have and the greater chance for sales you will receive. For example, if you have a book about grief and self-help, you can find a support group locally or online. Suggest the book to them for the group. Perhaps they will buy multiple copies and read it together.
In summary, the more reviews you gain, the more your book will sell. Start with getting reviews and then focus on marketing in untapped areas. This method will prove your book’s quality and reduce competition.
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