Growing up I loved playing strategy games. There were tons of old board games like Stratego, Tactics II, Blitzkrieg as well as the age-old favorite, chess. You could cut your teeth on strategic thinking with those games. Playing those types of games makes you the general. You make the decisions that win or lose your game. A recent blog got me thinking about strategy and book sales.
The blog by Leona Henry, The Ugly Truth About Book Sales, detailed Kameron Hurley’s sales struggles as an established author. It was an honest look at the issues that less established authors can expect. It’s a very sobering to read as an author planning to release a book later this year. Take a look for yourself – it ain’t pretty. Kameron ended up doing a very arduous blog tour to improve book sales.
However, I thought about this article for several days and referred to some other authors who’ve been – and remain successful – in this digital age. Here’s some of my strategic thinking:
1. Authors need lots of social media engagement. This is a simple statement but is actually much more complex than it suggests. It actually means that we authors must meet our readers and potential readers more than half-way. It means pursuing readers with single-minded balance – you can’t be too forward but you certainly cannot sit back and wait to be noticed. This means being active on social media channels in such a way as to gain followers without flooding them with sales pitches. Among other social media venues, this means having a growing presence as a reader on Goodreads. Additionally, an author must understand what channels to emphasize. For instance, all authors should have a presence on Goodreads but fantasy/scifi authors, in addition to Twitter, should their presence on Google+. Other genres are better marketed on various other forms of social media (for more information read this blog by Nicholas Rossis).
2. We need to gain the trust of readers. This dovetails from the first point in that engagement leads to curious looks from people. They are looking at our content. That’s right, our blogs, posted short fiction, publications, interviews and reviews (by us and for us). Readers want to know if we have the chops to deliver. If so, then maybe we’ve earned their trust enough to sell them a book. An author should be aware of content no matter where it is because readers do notice. Any kind of content matters and if your social media channels are growing then that should be pointing to your content. This leads to the next point…
3. Writers need to “up their game” when it comes to the quality of their content. People are busy these days and asking them to buy a book requires more than just their monetary investment. This includes differentiating ourselves from those who do not produce quality content by pursuing editing from trusted, professional sources. I know there are good line/copy editors we all have as friends, however a professional editor has expertise developing a book that a friend may not have. This is important since it appears that traditional publishers are starting to price books competitively with independent authors. Save up and engage a recommend, reputable editor. Regardless we all need an extra pair of eyes on our work. The same is true of a cover – be willing to spend some money on one to improve sales. But additionally, be patient with publication if you are an independent author. Learn from the opinion of others, read about the craft of writing and attend conferences as you are able. Patience is important – let that novel ferment some.
4. Support from other authors is necessary. There’s far more to book marketing than the three thoughts already discussed. Tours, interviews, gaining reviews, giveaways, etc., all gain an author visibility. But a lot of exposure comes from word of mouth and other authors (who are often readers and reviewers also) become very helpful. Networking with fellow writers is important. I’m glad I’m a member of Rave Reviews Book Club now rather than later. I’m learning so much from other authors just by helping and observing their work. If you aren’t in an authors network consider joining one (and no I’m not just plugging my club even though I am a VIP member). The association with other writers expands your reach exponentially. In the end, Kameron Hurley relied on numerous fellow writers while on the blog tour. Why not make that connection now.
The bottom-line is that numbers matter. How an author strategically approaches these concepts leads to sales – or not. It’s always a battle to discover and keep readers but it can be done with some thoughtful work. However, neglecting the idea of connecting with other people can lead to flat-line sales.
What other ideas do you have about the fluid world of book sales? What has worked for you in the past? What’s changed for you – good and bad? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my Contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.
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Clip art licensed from Microsoft Office.
General photo courtesy Morguefile.com (mzacha)
Cover art provided on commission from Christopher Rawlins