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The Five Fives of Selling Books

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You wrote a great book. Unfortunately, a few million other authors also think they wrote a great book, and they’ve put it on Amazon, too. How do you get people to notice your book in the vast digital crowd?

1. Five ways to improve the product:

  • Reviews are dandy, unless an honest reviewer has to say the book is poorly edited, insufficiently proofread, has holes in the plot, or just doesn’t make sense. Join a critique group. Other eyes will see problems we can’t see in our own work.
  • Try the free software Natural Reader, which reads your document aloud. You are more likely to notice missing or repeated words when someone is reading it aloud.
  • Spell check may be unfamiliar with proper names, places, and historical events. I often have to Google these to be sure of the spelling. The spell check in Google Docs does the Googling for you. Even if you don’t use Google Docs while writing, you can upload the document to Google Docs for a more sophisticated spelling check.
  • CreateSpace Interior Reviewer will show you how your paragraphs look, whether the pictures are in the right place, if everything fits inside the printable margins, and will identify any printing-related problems. This is essential to having a professional-looking book that won’t distract readers with unnecessary formatting problems.
  • Beta readers, or a professional editor, can give you valuable feedback on the book as a whole. A beta reader can see plot holes and inconsistencies that escape notice in critiquing a few pages at a time. A professional editor costs money, but unless your beta readers also do some editing, you may need one.

2. Five views:

  • I’ve read that it takes five views of a product before people decide to buy. That includes word of mouth, book fairs, social media, ads on Kindle and Amazon and in magazines, blogging, and podcasts—anything that puts your book in a potential customer’s mind.
  • As you go about your daily life, you can hand out your card, or a bookmark, to nearly anyone you meet. Store clerks, social contacts, people on the bus . . . just use good manners and don’t come across as aggressive or desperate.
  • Announce your book, and any awards or events, in the Celebrations section of the FWA’s magazine, The Florida Writer.
  • Amazon Marketing Services offers an affordable advertising opportunity. You decide how much you spend per day, and per click. You pay only when someone clicks on the ad, so money isn’t wasted on an ad no one responds to. After I started using AMS, the monthly sales on my first book increased by ten-fold.

3. Five reviews, at least:

  • Buyers feel more comfortable buying something they know other people liked.
  • Think of five or more people you trust and ask them to read your book and post an honest review.
  • There are organizations that will review your book for a fee. Some are expensive, but if you search around you can find more affordable ones. Red City Review is a good example.

4. Five or more books available:

  • Having more than one book out increases the chance of any of them selling.
  • Include a list of your other books, and upcoming books, in the back matter of each book.
  • If you’ve written a series, it can pay off to make the Kindle version of the first one free for a while. If the readers like the first book, they’re more likely to buy the others.
  •  Pay close attention to the marketing power of the title, cover, and descriptive blurb. These are the book equivalent of curb appeal, the things that make a person decide to look inside and then maybe buy the book.

5. Five years of activity:

  • Attend events, speak to local groups, and participate in book signings.
  • Advertise.
  • Post on social media, blog, and guest blog.
  • Talk to people in real life.
  • Publish more books.

Many writers dislike the editing, publishing, and marketing aspects of writing. We’re smart people, and we can learn these necessary auxiliary skills even if we don’t enjoy them.

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Follow Marie Brack:

Marie Brack writes both fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of My Writer’s Sampler: Exercises in Learning to Write Fiction (a finalist in the 2017 RPLA), and several other works: amazon.com/author/mariebrack. Her mystery, Further Investigation, won third prize in the 2017 RPLA competition. Although she lives primarily in cyberspace, she has a physical home in Daytona Beach, Florida, and is a member of two writers’ groups.

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